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World Diabetes Day: sweeteners (in certain cases) useful

3.9 million Italians suffer from the disease. The Unione Italiana Food survey suggests remedies

There are 3.9 million, or 6.6% of the population, Italians who suffer from diabetes. In recent years, treatments and awareness of the best ways to manage this disease have made great strides. There are many strategies that can be implemented by those who suffer from it. Sweeteners, for example, offer type 1 diabetics wider food choices, while they can help in the case of type 2 diabetes, as they do not raise blood glucose levels. Precisely for this reason, on the occasion of World Diabetes Day (14 November), the Italian Food Union - Sweeteners Group places emphasis on the importance of promoting the culture of these products through expert advice on how to use them best and correctly.

Diabetes represents one of the most persistent pathologies of the century. The frequency of this disease is increasing everywhere and even in Italy the data is evolving negatively. According to the Italian Diabetes Barometer Report 2023, created by the IBDO Foundation, in 2022 the number of diabetics in Italy is increasing with 3.9 million affected subjects, or 6.6% of the general population. Since 2019, there has even been an increase of +14%, equal to 400 thousand more cases. The data are also increasing compared to the latest Istat estimates which date back to 2020, according to which diabetes affected approximately 6% of the population, that is, over 3 and a half million people. Type 2 diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes, is the most frequent and accounts for 90% of diabetes cases. Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes, accounts for approximately 10%.

To date there are no methods to prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes, while it is possible to prevent type 2 diabetes, which is more widespread and tends to develop in adulthood. Diabetes prevention can be achieved through various steps and changes in habits and is considered the most effective method to avoid the onset of this form of diabetes. The adoption of a healthy lifestyle and the constant monitoring of risk factors, through the early identification of people at risk and their involvement in prevention programs, are the key principles of this path.

Used in place of sugar in many foods and drinks to provide a sweet alternative with few or no added calories, sweeteners are ingredients that can be hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar. Very small quantities are therefore needed to impart the desired level of sweetness to foods and drinks. But how can they be useful to people with diabetes? While extremely sweeter, low-calorie sweeteners, in the context of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, offer diabetics broader food choices by providing the pleasure of sweet taste without raising blood glucose. Additionally, by having no impact on blood sugar and insulin levels and providing no calories, they may also play a role in weight loss and control for people with type 2 diabetes.

In general, for diabetics, following a healthy and balanced diet is essential. Reducing the consumption of foods high in saturated fats and refined sugars, also through the adoption of sweeteners, and adapting the intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins to the Italian guidelines for a healthy diet are all valid solutions to control portions and avoid overweight. It is also essential to try to dedicate at least 3 hours a week to regular and structured physical activity, such as walking, swimming or cycling. This must be combined with an increase in normal daily movement, for example preferring the stairs to the lift. Physical activity helps control weight by improving the ability of muscles to use insulin and absorb glucose. Finally, it is necessary to monitor blood sugar levels and reduce or eliminate the consumption of alcohol and smoking: in this regard, "light" smokers are approximately 29% more likely to develop diabetes than non-smokers, and heavy smokers they have an even greater risk.

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