«There is no food that is forbidden for a person with diabetes»

In Spain alone, it is estimated that diabetes affects more than six million people and its incidence rate is increasingly higher. However, that does not mean that these patients cannot enjoy a full life, including nutrition, but that they have to learn to count carbohydrates and if one sins they have to walk more. Dr. Franz Martín Bermudo explains it in «Living with diabetes. Everything you need to know to treat it and take care of yourself”, from the Vergara publishing house.

Virtually all of us have a family member with type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, not all patients are equally cautious. How to make a person with diabetes say no to sugar?

It’s difficult. As an endocrinologist I knew from a town in the south of Alicante said, if it hurt when your blood sugar went up, things would be different. The problem is fighting the society we live in. However, we don’t have to completely give up sugar, but we have to eat better, exercise, not live under stress and get enough sleep. It’s a chronic disease that, unless we act soon, we will have for life. We have to try to let it take its course as slowly as possible, controlling our lifestyle so that it doesn’t go any further.

How can the patient recognize that the body is asking for more sugar and not fall into temptation? Any tricks?

It’s not that the body is asking for sugar, but that the patient has generally developed the disease by eating poorly, drinking alcohol, consuming saturated fats, ultra-processed foods… For four years I was visiting patient associations throughout Europe and I realised that people know what they have to do but they can’t because it is very difficult to fight against the lifestyle we lead.

Products that are labelled sugar-free are not always healthier for diabetics… Can they have more added sugars due to a lack of legislation?

There is no legal loophole. But the general public does not know how to read food labels. When we talk about sugars, we must distinguish the natural sugar that is found in food per se in a banana or a pear, for example, from added sugars and then from those present in juices, honey and syrups. The additions should be reduced. But it is just as bad to eat a food with a lot of sugar as it is with a lot of animal fat or modified fats. That is, it is worse to have an industrial pizza because it has sugars, additives and modified fats than to have a pizza that you make at home.

Between eating a few ounces of sugar-free chocolate every day and eating a few ounces of regular chocolate once a week, which is better for a diabetic?

It doesn’t work like that. Depending on your weight and physical activity, you have to consume a certain amount of calories per day. If you are going to have a piece of cake, eat less rice, bread or potatoes that day or take a 40-minute walk instead of 20.

At a European level, you will no longer see foods suitable for diabetics. That makes no sense. There is no food that is prohibited for a person with diabetes in any way that is not normal.

You have to learn to count carbohydrates. But tip the balance by measuring nutrients. And you have to take into account the speed of carbohydrate absorption and the quantities. Thus, a watermelon has few sugars but when it is digested quickly, the sugars quickly rise. On the other hand, the date has more sugar but more fiber, so the sugars rise more slowly. So immediately before doing sports you can eat watermelon, as it raises blood sugar quickly. On the other hand, if there is going to be a period of time between eating and exercising, you could eat a date.

Is it true that it can be reversed?

At the beginning of the disease yes. It has been seen that if you have an intense weight loss of 10%, do sports and eat well, it can be reversed.