National Diabetes Week (Nutrition - Looking At The Big Picture)
This National Diabetes Week, our Head of Nutrition Research, Dr Amelia Harray, explains why she’s helping families look at the big food picture when managing type 1 diabetes.
The impact of carbohydrates has long been the key focus of blood glucose management in type 1 diabetes, however there is rapidly emerging evidence that suggests people with T1D should also consider fat and protein. Foods high in fat and protein have been found to impact blood glucose levels, causing delayed hyperglycaemia for up to 10 hours after eating. This is becoming widely acknowledged, with the International Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association highlighting the importance of subsequent insulin adjustments and requirements. Yet, little is known about how families understand and apply learnings around fat and protein in real-life scenarios and whether the current clinical advice is being translated to patients in a consistent, evidence-based approach.
“We’ve heard in a recent community priority setting workshop that families want help with dealing with fat and protein when calculating their child’s insulin requirements, and we are listening,” Dr Harray said.
An upcoming study at the Children’s Diabetes Centre at Telethon Kids Institute will investigate the research question: How are families living with type 1 diabetes being provided with nutrition education and resources on dealing with foods high in fat and protein, and what could be improved to make the information and resources more understandable and useful in free-living scenarios?
“We will be answering this question by running focus groups with families to explore challenges they’re having with fat and protein, and investigating strategies to best support families with this.” Dr Harray said.
The study will recruit families who already engage in changes to their diabetes management when dealing with foods high in fat and protein, as well as those who have not yet received education for dealing with fat and protein. The aim is to explore how new research knowledge on the impact of dietary fat and protein on insulin requirements in T1D can best be translated to support families of children and adolescents with T1D and improve glycaemic control.
Dr Harray said the research will involve consulting clinicians and families to develop engaging and useful resources on dealing with foods high in fat and protein.
The daily grind of dealing with diabetes can involve a lot of thinking, planning and problem-solving which overtime takes its toll on mental well-being. Many children living with diabetes and their families can sometimes feel distressed, frustrated or burned out, making it even harder to manage diabetes.
Learning about the potential impacts of high protein and fat on blood glucose but not knowing where to access further support can be overwhelming for many families caring for children with type 1 diabetes. Lack of adequate resources and reluctance with having to monitor diet and blood glucose more closely can prevent families from seeking the necessary support to deal with fat and protein in their child’s diet. This upcoming study will look at improving the resources and support provided to families on foods high in fat and protein in order to help them in managing their child’s diabetes.
Find out more about our nutrition research team and other studies they are working on here.