Monday, 27 April 2015

Listening to a Diabetes Diet – Food for Thought?

Radio 4’s ‘Food Programme’ focused yesterday on diabetes and food. A very welcome focus, stimulated in part, says the blurb, by the large number of people diagnosed with diabetes, contacting Diabetes UK to ask ‘what can I eat?’

The programme brought together an impressive line up of experts to discuss the answer to this question, including representatives from Diabetes UK, a media doctor whose own son has Type 1 diabetes, a specialist dietitian and a radio presenter with longstanding Type 1 diabetes. Together they were able to explain what diabetes is, how common is Type 2 diabetes and gave some good messages about what a healthy ‘diet’ consists of, including ways that less healthy options can be improved (with, generally, extra vegetables added). Particularly welcome was the news that Boots and Thorntons are phasing out their ‘diabetic’ food ranges and the emphasis by Diabetes UK on trying to get away from the idea of ‘a diabetic diet’

Although the focus was on food, as ever from an SD point of view, the most interesting aspects were the personal stories alluded to by those there to discuss actually living with diabetes. The media doctor described the challenges of helping a young child learn to live with daily injections and how even as a doctor, the emotional burden was the same as any parent would experience. He sounded clearly very proud of his now grown up son, (who has in turn become a GP) and relieved that he is living a very healthy life, something that will have resonated loudly with many parents of young children, and perhaps given them some consolation

JP, the radio presenter with Type 1 diabetes, described a huge family history of diabetes, much of it also Type 1. Even so, upon his own diagnosis, it had come as something of a shock to him what a juggling act it really was to live with this condition. He wasn’t so keen on eating out, he said, because historically it hadn’t been so easy to match his insulin timings to the food arriving. Even though times had changed, he still tended to follow what he’d been taught at the beginning, for example, eating as little sugar as possible

An item towards the start of the programme focused on someone newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes who in a relatively short interview, was able to reveal a range of concerns about having diabetes. This included finding unexpected amounts of sugar ‘lurking’ everywhere, for example, in tonic water, but more poignantly, the worries about passing on poor health to her sons and not wishing to ‘be a burden’ if she developed complications.

None of the personal aspects and emotional effects of living with diabetes were meant to be part of this programme, but they ‘leaked out’ anyway. Perhaps this is because food itself is an emotional issue for many people or perhaps, whatever the official topic under discussion, these are the aspects that matter most, as living with diabetes is so intricately bound within family and social relationships and our very identity. A programme putting this centre-stage would be a recipe for a very tasty listen.

BBC Radio 4: The Food Programme. 26.4.15

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