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Are meal replacements a good idea for people with diabetes?

Life is busy. Add in diabetes, and life is really busy – as anyone living with the condition knows. Sometimes it feels almost impossible to fit three healthy meals into a day… Which is when meal replacements might be a good idea.

We wanted to do a deep dive into meal replacements to understand exactly what they are, and if they’re a good idea for people with diabetes. Read on for what we found out!

What are meal replacements?

Meal replacements are shakes made with powder and cold water. Some meal replacements – those specifically made for people with diabetes – can act as tools to improve glycemic control and reduce weight in people with Type 2 diabetes.

Of these, Glucerna is the winner – it’s the number one selling diabetes nutritional supplement drink in the world. It offers 3 point care (heart health, weight management and blood sugar management) and has been extensively scientifically studied. Glucerna Triple Care has been formulated especially for the nutritional needs of people with diabetes or with impaired glucose tolerance. It’s a source of monounsaturated fatty acids, and high in omega-3 to support heart health.

Most importantly though? It’s delicious! Actually delicious, not just delicious for a meal replacement. It tastes like vanilla flavoured milk – without the carbs.

Who might benefit from a meal replacement?

According to both the American Dietetic Association and the American Diabetes Association, meal replacements can be useful for weight control. In their position statement on weight management, the American Dietetic Association states that meal replacements can be a useful part of a comprehensive weight management program for those who struggle with self-selection and portion control.

We all know how hard it is to stick to the right portions, especially when something is delicious, so replacing a meal or snack with something like Glucerna takes that decision off your plate for at least one meal a day.

According to the association, substituting one or two daily meals or snacks with meal replacements is a successful weight loss and weight maintenance strategy.

Why are meal replacements a good choice for those living with diabetes?

When you’re living with diabetes, blood sugar levels go up and down (we all know that!) These levels can be hard to manage, and when they aren’t controlled, they can lead to long-term problems with heart health. Glucerna, in particular, offers supplemental nutrition for people with diabetes. It features a blend of ingredients designed to manage blood sugar response.

How does Glucerna help manage your blood sugar?

Because it’s a nutritional supplement – not just a shake – it incorporates omega-3 fatty acids, a unique fat blend and slowly digested carbohydrates. Together, these have been shown to reduce blood glucose variability.

Glucerna Triple Care has been scientifically designed to directly meet the needs of people with diabetes. It has a slow-release carbohydrate system that helps manage the glucose response, and its fat blend that includes MUFA and omega-3 fatty acids support heart health. Glucerna Triple Care, when used as part of a diabetes management plan, can support weight management and is fortified with chromium picolinate, a highly bio-available form of chromium which supports carbohydrate metabolism.

For those who want to read the research, we’ve compiled it here.

Is it useful for weight loss?

Glycemia targeted nutrition products (meal replacements that are specifically for those with diabetes) have also been shown to support weight loss.

It is said that people with diabetes who have been unsuccessful at losing weight through traditional methods benefit from glycemia targeted nutrition products as part of a weight loss programme.

A study was conducted which followed 96 obese individuals with diabetes for six months. All subjects who failed to lose at least 5% of their presenting weight after three months in a comprehensive weight loss programme were advised to substitute one meal per day with Glucerna.

Results demonstrated that subjects using meal replacement with Glucerna used in a structured intervention program exhibited greater weight loss than those treated through conventional diet alone. In addition, subjects consuming Glucerna showed improvement in HbA1C levels, total cholesterol, total triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and blood pressure.

How does it support heart health?

Glucerna contains a fat blend that includes MUFA and omega-3 fatty acids which help support heart health.

Where can you buy Glucerna?

Glucerna is available at all major retail pharmacies (like Clicks and Dis-Chem) and the CDE.

Find out more about Glucerna here.

What to read next?

Do people with diabetes need to worry about heart health?: We all know that diabetes and heart health go together – heart disease is one of the most common diabetes complications. But does that mean all people with diabetes need to worry about heart health?

Healthy alternatives for diabetics: We’ve shared this list of healthy alternatives for diabetics – choose a food you eat often, and replace it with a healthier option that will be much kinder to your blood sugar!

What has diabetes taught you?: When our co-founder Bridget wrote this column about 15 things diabetes taught her, she was overwhelmed by all the excellent feedback from our South Africans with Diabetes community.

Photos by Bluewater Sweden on Unsplash

1. Seagle HM, Strain GW, Makris A, Reeves RS; American Dietetic Association. Position of the  American Dietetic Association: weight management. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Feb;109(2):330-46.  doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2008.11.041. PMID: 19244669.
2. Glucerna® Product Label.3. Tatti P, De  Mauro P. Cardiovascular risk factors and blood glucose variation after weight loss with 2  different therapeutic strategies in obese diabetic patients. American Diabetes Association 68th  Annual Scientific Sessions. San Francisco CA, USA, 2008.
3. A Scoping Review Protocol. Lew Leong Chen,  Arimi Fitri Mat Ludin, Suzana Shahar et al. Meal Replacement in Dietary Management of Type-2  Diabetes Mellitus: A Scoping Review Protocol, 14 September 2020, PREPRINT (Version 2)  available at Research Square []
4.  Glucerna Monograph.

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.