January 9, 2015

Poor Holiday Gift Ideas for a Person with Diabetes

It is not fun looking for gifts for a person with diabetes. Most gifts are food oriented and while many claim to be sugar free, they say nothing about the number of carbohydrates the food contains. Even a present I received last Christmas loudly proclaimed it was sugar free. According to the label, the container said there were sixteen servings in the container. The nutrition label showed zero for sugar. Then the bomb was the sugar alcohols was 15 grams of sugar alcohol per serving. Then the carbohydrates listed about floored me. There were 55 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Not very appetizing! This was not something I would eat. The combination of sugar alcohol and carbohydrates made this like eating heavy sugar.

Then the ingredients listed wheat, and several other foods that I don't eat. When the person giving me the gift could see that I was not enthused about the gift, and stated that it was sugar free. Fortunately, this was someone that does not understand diabetes and I could overlook the bad gift, until he said it will not affect your diabetes. Then he opened the bag and handed me one insisting that I eat it and it would not affect my diabetes. I could not let this teaching moment pass. I got my meter and asked my wife when I had last had food. She said almost four hours prior.

I tested my blood glucose and it was 106 mg/dl. I said that I would eat the serving and at about 90 to 120 minutes, later the reading would be about 165 mg/dl. He said it should not go up at all. I had my opening and said you will take the gift back if it goes up. After some thought, he finally agreed. Since there were three other support group members present, I could see them give thumbs up.

An hour later, Tim asked me to test. I said okay, got my meter, and tested. I had washed my hands thoroughly earlier. I was still surprised when the meter showed a reading of 158 mg/dl. Allen asked to see and he pointed this out to the fellow. I said the agreement was for 90 minutes or 120 minutes and Allen said okay.

At 90 minutes, I tested again. The reading was 163 mg/dl. Then at 120 minutes, the reading was 168 mg/dl. Since he had been near me the whole time, I said I have not had anything else to eat or drink, so the meter could be off by up to 20 percent, but this still proved that his gift was bad for my diabetes. He agreed and asked how something that was sugar free could affect my blood glucose that much.

Jason asked if he could try to answer the question. I said sure and Jason asked him to look at the nutrition label and asked what the sugar alcohol was listed. He answered 15 grams. Jason said a sugar alcohol is a kind of alcohol prepared from sugar and these organic compounds are a class of polyols. They normally have little effect on blood glucose, but there is some debate. Polyols are used in foods that are claiming to be sugar free.

Next, Jason asked him to read the number of grams of carbohydrates. He read the same 55 grams. Jason said this is what the body converts to glucose and causes the levels to rise. He then had him read the first ingredient. His answer was wheat and Jason said this is what causes those of us with diabetes to have elevated blood glucose. This is what those of us with diabetes do not want and why we have to use oral medications or insulin.

Jason's wife, Tim, and Allen had been working their way closer to us and Jason's wife spoke up, said Jason is right, and she had seen this happen when he tested. She said after Jason's diagnosis, the dietitian had stressed the whole grains very hard, but when this hadn't helped his blood glucose levels, they had tried eliminating different whole grains and most caused spikes in blood glucose levels. Once they stopped the whole grains, she said Jason's blood glucose levels had improved significantly.

The fellow said that by adding some sugar, he would be happy to take back the gift and he had not realized that diabetes involved more than sugar.


Scott S said...

I liked your teaching moment here; a vast majority of people who have zero training presume sugar-free is the same as carbohydrate-free. They unfortunately have been educated by soundbytes on television and even news stories and magazines by authors who are neither medical experts, nor are their editors doing their jobs. But try doing this for 28 years, and it gets a little tiring!

Bob Fenton said...

We probably don't do this enough. We have noticed that when we have several other type 2 friends with us, we get better results.