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The Wrong “Sugar-Free” Candy

Aug 6, 2012

At a recent diabetes education class I give for a local utility company, we went over label reading. The discussion on sugar alcohols was very lively as patients noticed the number of sugar-free foods that contain these products.

I explained that these have little or no effect on raising glucose levels in non-insulin using patients and that, like fiber, they could subtract this number from the total carbs. The Pecan Delights from Russell-Stover were quite popular with only 1 net carb per 2 pieces of candy.

During the next session I asked if they’d tried any of the foods discussed the week before.  Most patients reported positive results, and a couple — who tested their glucose after eating the candies — found no increase in glucose levels.

However, one gentleman complained that his glucose increased over 100 mg/dl on the 3 occasions he tried the product. I found this odd and others in the class thought he was cheating.

He then pulled out the package and my patients saw immediately what was wrong. The fellow had bought “fat free” not “sugar free” — 4 pieces of this “fat free” candy had 68 carbs rather than the 2 carbs he thought he was getting. His wife picked the candy up at the grocery store for him, mistakenly thinking he wanted “fat free.” I am quite proud of these patients for figuring out the solution themselves.

Lesson Learned

Patients are often looking for ways to control their glucose levels without giving up everything they like, so recommending products that can help is a good idea. Ask them to write down the full name and description of specific products recommended though, and also talk to their spouses and any other caregivers about their dietary needs.

Shani Davis, ARNP, CDE 

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