Diabetes and diet
Homar Bartra, MD, is a board-certified physician in Internal Medicine at Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: I was recently diagnosed with diabetes mellitus. Can I continue to eat candy and chocolates or do I have to eat special food now? Also, am I more likely to get infections because I am diabetic?
Answer: You will have to be careful about what you eat; therefore you will need to make changes to your diet. Studies have shown that foods which cause high levels of blood sugar and insulin after a meal may cause resistance to how insulin works and may impair the secretion of natural insulin. For some patients this may increase the risk of developing or advancing diabetes mellitus, the most common type of diabetes. Foods like candy, chocolate, pancakes, pasta and pizza have a high glycemic load which can cause high levels of blood glucose and insulin after a meal and should be avoided. Foods that have a high glycemic load can also cause diabetes mellitus in the general population and can advance diabetes mellitus.
You should also be eating certain foods. Patients with diabetes mellitus should favor foods with low glycemic load such as apples, dark bread, skim milk and orange juice. Your doctor should be able to provide you with a diabetic diet that lists the foods you should favor and also indicates the total number of calories allotted per day.
In terms of infections, diabetes mellitus decreases the ability of the immune system to fight infections which can cause diabetic patients to have an increased risk of developing serious infections. You should establish a good relationship with your doctor as you will need to see him/her frequently to monitor your blood closely. If you feel that you may have an infection, call your doctor as soon as possible as these infections can worsen rapidly.
Furthermore, if you control your blood pressure and cholesterol you could possibly prevent heart attack and stroke which are the most frequent causes of death in diabetic patients. There is also now clear evidence that if your blood sugar is controlled you could delay or prevent blindness, kidney failure and amputations. Overall, it is important to discuss your specific case with your doctor in order to plan the most appropriate course of action in the treatment of your diabetes.