Sugar Tax Q&A with Diabetic Nurse Jennifer Carson
With many brands already responding to the Sugar Tax due to be enforced in April 2018 by cutting sugar levels in their products, what does this mean for diabetics that have come to rely on these products to help them manage their glucose levels and prevent hypoglycaemic incidents (hypos)?
Diabetic Nurse Jennifer Carson shares her views on how the sugar tax will affect Diabetics, and how to help manage the condition more effectively in light of these changes.
What is the low down on the sugar tax in the UK?
In April 2018, a tax is being applied to sugary and soft drinks. The World Health Organisation (WHO) called for these taxes to be put in place in a bid to fight global obesity and diabetes epidemics.[i] WHO estimates that the number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014, and predicts it will become the seventh leading cause of death by 2030.[ii]
Because of this tax, manufacturers, such as Lucozade and Ribena, have reduced the sugar content of their drinks by more than 50%.
What effect will this have on Diabetics and why?
While these changes are an incredibly positive step in the right direction for most of the UK, some diabetics have traditionally used these drinks to increase and manage their glucose levels,[iii] in an effort to prevent hypoglycaemic incidents (hypos).
A hypo is when blood sugar levels fall too low and can trigger symptoms such as feeling dizzy, hungry, a change in mood, trembling, sweats and difficulty concentrating. If left untreated and the hypo becomes severe, it can result in disorientation, seizures and loss of consciousness.
The new formulations in sugary drinks in shops will not only mean that diabetics relying on these drinks will have to consume twice as much to get the same glucose intake, but with some brands already making changes, both old and new formulations could be available on the shelf at the same time, meaning diabetics will need to be extra vigilant and check the label before buying.
While some brands are being open about the changes they are making to their products, there is a concern that many brands will just make these changes without informing customers that they are taking place. This can lead to doubt and confusion over how much glucose is being consumed and absorbed which will be worrying for many individuals with diabetes.
What are some changes diabetics can make to help them manage their condition in light of these changes?
- Always read the label. Even if you have purchased the same brand drink, from the same store on the same day, make sure you check the carbohydrate levels on the list of ingredients to be sure you know what you are consuming
- Ensure anyone around you that you may rely on to help you or your diabetic child in case of a hypo is also aware of the changes to these products and are aware of any changes you may be making to the management routine.
- For parents making changes to the management routine for their diabetic children, make sure you inform your child’s school and childcare of any changes you are making in light of the sugar tax, and any different products you may be using.
- Check the stock of products you have at home. If you have some of the older products as well as some of the drinks with a reduced sugar content it might be a good idea to keep them on separate shelves or cupboards to ensure there is no confusion.
- The recommended treatment for diabetic hypos is 15–20g of fast-acting glucose. It is important that diabetics, looking to manage their condition effectively, know where they can receive an exact and measured amount of quality glucose when they need it most. Talk to your pharmacist about alternative glucose products that contain measured glucose levels.
- Even with the glucose tax changes, do not rely on chocolate to manage a hypoglycaemic event. Chocolate contains fat which will slow down the absorption of the glucose.
- Having a hypo kit (fast acting glucose product with a long shelf life and instructions on how to manage a hypo laminated) at home or in school can be helpful, especially when you need to act fast managing a hypo. If individuals like teachers are not experienced in treating a hypo they can get flustered, so a hypo kit can make things easier for them.
- Even though we normally recommend daily fruit intake, we do not advise taking fruit to manage a hypo. Whole fruit like banana for example contains fibre and this will slow down the absorption of glucose.
- Main symptoms of a hypo are: hunger, shakes, sweating, irritability, pale colour, palpitations and a fast heart rate/pulse. This can mean that patients are not thinking straight and may refuse to take the glucose. The person with the child needs to act in their best interest and encourage them to consume the glucose. When they are feeling unwell a tablet form of fast acting glucose may be easier than liquid.
Ask your pharmacist about GLUCO.
GLUCO is a range of fast-acting glucose products. Containing a measured amount of fast-acting glucose, to help rapidly raise blood sugar levels, GLUCO products are free from artificial colours, sweeteners, caffeine and gluten, and are suitable for both vegetarian and vegan diets.
GlucoJuice (RRP £1.55 per 60ml bottle) contains an exact 15g glucose burst per bottle. Available in a convenient 35ml bottle for on-the-go, the unique format comes in two great tasting flavours.
Gluco Tabs (RRP £0.89 for 10 tablets) contain exactly 4g of glucose burst per tablet and are available in 4 flavours, Zesty Lemon and Lime, Blueberry Burst, Tangy Orange, Juicy Raspberry. GlucoTabs come in a convenient moisture proof tube of 10 tablets or 50 refill pack.
GLUCO products are available in most major Supermarkets and Pharmacies. For more information visit www.gogluco.co.uk.