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Wellness Foods magazine covers diabetes each year at this time. The research into diet and diabetes is moving constantly forward. Unfortunately, so is the number of new cases of the disease. Diabetes continues to grip the world in epidemic numbers, so much so that the concept of a "Type 3" diabetes (teen-onset Type 2) is gaining ground.
It gets more ominous: This is the year the baby boomers begin turning 60, and diabetes will hit these new seniors hard. As perhaps the most self-indulgent generation in American history, it’s no wonder a lot of the blame for the diabetes epidemic centers on self-control. Diabetes-prone parents are raising increasing numbers of children at risk for or already in the throes of the disease.
But creators and manufacturers of foods for people with diabetes — and wellness food processors as a whole — who make the foods designed either directly or indirectly to prevent the development of obesity and diabetes, are bringing more and more ammo to the battle every year. They’re at the forefront of understanding that we humans are generally a noncompliant bunch. Special foods for persons with diabetes were among the very first wellness food products ever marketed. They were designed specifically to fill the need of folks told they could never eat cake or candy or soda pop again — a hard sentence to be imposed on the newly diagnosed.
It’s a different paradigm now. With weight and diabetes tied so closely together, foods for weight management, foods for general health and foods to help manage diabetes are merging into one. Manufacturers are finding they can create products that fit all three categories and appeal to every palate.
Previously, the focus with formulations for diabetes was on sugar. “Take it out take it out take it out!” was the rallying cry. Early sugar substitutes were poor imitations of flavor and in their own way made the person struggling to control blood sugar feel more ostracized. Working from the opposite end, formulations to combat obesity were obsessed with fat and cholesterol, with even the slightest amount of either in a product treated as poison.
And the general health squad was making foods that had no fat, no sugar, extra fiber and vitamins and no flavor. The game was to see what you could take out of a food, and flavor was last on anyone’s list to leave in.
The merging of sophisticated technology, better understanding of disease and nutrition and supply and demand spurred the development of foods that appeal with flavor and substance but do not offend with second-class taste, unpleasant textures or inadequate nutrition. Naturally derived sweeteners are available that deliver sugar’s flavor but are digested more slowly or have fewer calories. Grain foods that aid digestion, reduce glycemic load and provide fuller nutrient profiles are putting baked goods on the table where breads and pastries were previously banned. And the flavor and texture are outstanding — none of the cardboard cake and sawdust bagels of old.
We’re still an obese nation; our kids are still getting less exercise and gaining more weight. Diabetes will plague us for a long time yet before we turn the tide. But as processors provide more and more useful tools to combat the diseases of eating, we hopefully will find ourselves eating to live and not living to eat.
Editor's Note: Did you miss last year’s diabetes feature? Click here to read "Diabetes Under Control" from April 2005. To find additional articles on diabetes and obesity on our website, type “diabetes obesity” in the search box.
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