World Diabetes Day: The Link Between Diabetes and Nutrition

By Talking Nutrition Editors

  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), diabetes remains one of the world’s fastest growing chronic diseases. 
  • Research suggests a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition are crucial ways to reduce the risk of diabetes and manage diabetes once diagnosed.
  • Essential nutrients like oat beta glucan, vitamin E, nutritional lipids and tomato concentrate can be used to develop new foods, beverages and dietary supplements that support whole health for diabetics and those susceptible to the disease. 

November 14 is World Diabetes Day. Why should you be concerned? One in two people with diabetes – roughly 212 million people worldwide – currently remain undiagnosed.(1) To put that in context, that is more people than those who live in the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy combined.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), diabetes remains one of the world’s fastest growing chronic diseases. The WHO notes that the global prevalence of diabetes (standardized for age) has nearly doubled since 1980 and now constitutes more than 8.5 percent of the adult population. What’s more, the number of people with diabetes is expected to rise to 522 million by 2030.(2)

The scale and severity of this global health issue is compounded by the fact that diabetes is a leading cause of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation. Consistently high blood glucose levels can lead to serious diseases affecting the heart; therefore, maintaining blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol at or close to normal can help delay or reduce the risk of diabetes. (3)

With cardiovascular disease (CVD) reaching global epidemic proportions – more than 31 percent of global deaths result from CVD annually – diabetics and pre-diabetics must take special precautions to safeguard their heart health. (4)

While there is currently no known cure for CVD or Type 1 diabetes, 80 percent of individual cases with Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle, including daily physical activity and proper diet and nutrition. (5)

The Role of Nutrition

For diabetics and pre-diabetics, early diagnosis and proper nutrition remain the best ways to increase positive health outcomes – especially in relation to heart health. Nutrition is particularly significant in light of factors such as patient non-adherence to prescribed medications. In the United States approximately 50 percent of chronic disease medications are not taken as prescribed– often leading to dangerous if not deadly outcomes. (6) Given this, utilizing smart personalized nutrition to tackle chronic disease is appealing both for industry and consumers. 

When it comes to enhancing nutrition for diabetics, there are key nutrients to consider. Creating new foods, drinks and supplements that include these key nutrients would not only help consumers tremendously but would also ensure that businesses are leveraging the rising trends of personalized nutrition. (7)

Fish and Oats

To be more specific, research shows an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids has scientifically proven health outcomes for cardiovascular disease (8) and blindness (9) – conditions to which diabetics are especially prone. In 2012, the European Commission authorized an Article 13.1 health claim that 250 mg per day of EPA and DHA contributes to the maintenance of normal function of the heart. (10) Fortifying foods with vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as Meg-3®, life’sOMEGA and lifes’DHA®, as well as adding omega-3 rich sources of food like oily fish to the diet are particularly appropriate for diabetics and others predisposed to cardiovascular disease. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are not the sole nutrition boost needed for diabetics. Oat beta glucan is another powerful nutrient clinically proven in the areas of cholesterol reduction and blood glucose control. A natural soluble fiber derived from oats, oat beta glucan has been approved by both the European Commission and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its ability to reduce both total and more harmful LDL cholesterol and thus reduce the associated risk of developing heart disease. Numerous clinical studies have shown that three grams of beta-glucan per day can lower the risk of heart disease by as much as 20 percent. Fortifying foods with natural products such as OatWell offers diabetic consumers a way to stay in control of their health while supporting the nutritional value of each bite. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another often overlooked nutrient when it comes to risk management of cardiovascular disease for diabetics. Increased vitamin E consumption helps oxidative stress and inflammation by protecting cells from damage, limiting oxidative damage to fatty acids and reducing arterial stiffness. (11) Thus, adding vitamin E to a range of diabetes and heart friendly foods, drinks and supplements would also prove extremely appealing to consumers seeking natural ways to improve health outcomes through diet.

Tomato Concentrate

The same applies to ingredients such as Fruitflow, a water soluble tomato concentrate that contributes to a healthy blood flow and may have beneficial effects on blood pressure. Fruitflow can be added seamlessly into soups, pasta sauces, smoothies, beverages and so much more to enable diabetics and those predisposed to CVD to enjoy their usual foods with added nutritional benefits. 

It’s clear that a new class of foods, drinks and supplements is needed to address the needs of the world’s diabetics. World Diabetes Day, thus, should be a call to action not just for those dealing with chronic conditions but for the industries tasked with providing the latest in diabetic risk management. A bright future awaits us all.   

Get started now on your next fortified food or beverage innovation. 

Published on

08 November 2018


  • Nutraceuticals
  • Nutritional Lipids
  • Vitamins
  • Food and Beverage
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Health & Nutrition
  • Article
  • Senior Management
  • Marketing


10 min read

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1. [Internet]. Brussels: International Diabetes Foundation; c2018 [cited 2018 Oct 28]; available from:

2. World Health Organization. Global Report on Diabetes. Geneva: WHO Press; 2016.

3. [Internet]. International Diabetes Federation; 2018 May 17; available from: Diabetes basics - International Diabetes Federation (

4. dsm-firmenich. Benefits of Optimal Omega-3 Intake and Status, Nutritional Solutions White Paper; 2017.

5. [Internet]. Brussels: International Diabetes Foundation; c2018 [cited 2018 Oct 28]; available from:

6. Viswanathan M, Golin CE, Jones CD, et al. Interventions to improve adherence to self-administered medications for chronic diseases in the United States: a systematic review,’ Ann Intern Med. 2012;157(111): 785-95.


8. Lavie et al. 2009 (review), “Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Diseases“


10. dsm-firmenich. Benefits of Optimal Omega-3 Intake and Status, Nutritional Solutions White Paper; 2017.

11. dsm-firmenich. Benefits of Optimal Omega-3 Intake and Status, Nutritional Solutions White Paper; 2017.

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