November 4, 2020
Diabetes is characterized by elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels. Over time, excess blood glucose can lead to health problems such as heart disease, nerve damage, eye, and kidney disease. Women with diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease compared to men with diabetes, experience worse outcomes after a heart attack, and are also at higher risk for other diabetes-related health problems such as blindness, kidney disease, and depression. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-and-women.html
Managing diabetes includes a nutrition plan, physical activity and taking any medications recommended by your healthcare provider. As an endocrinologist, I know firsthand the challenges that accompany the daily management of diabetes; particularly with making healthy food choices. However, there is some good news. Recently, FDA updated the Nutrition Facts label based on new nutrition and public health research.
In recognition of diabetes awareness month, we spoke with Dr. Susan Mayne, Director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, about the exciting new changes to the Nutrition Facts label. Given that healthy eating habits play a major role in diabetes management, we hope these updates help you make choices to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Good nutrition is important for everyone, and it is always the right time to use the information on the Nutrition Facts label to learn more about the foods you choose for yourself and your family. Diabetes awareness month is a good time to focus on how the new label can help those individuals who have the added challenge of managing diabetes. I hope these questions and answers provide information that you can use to help your family to eat healthier and to choose foods that meet your individual needs.
1. Why was the Nutrition Facts Label updated?
The previous label was unveiled about 25 years ago, so it was time for an update. The new label reflects new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. It also features a refreshed design, making it easier for consumers to make informed food choices that work for them and their families.
2. Can you summarize the updates to the new label?
FDA has updated several elements of the new label. It still has the same iconic look, but take a look at these new features:
- Calories are now displayed in larger, bolder font.
- Some serving sizes have been updated to better reflect what people actually eat and drink.
- Added sugars, vitamin D and potassium are now listed.
- Daily values have been updated. The percent Daily Value (%DV) shows how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a total daily diet.
3. What changes to the nutrition label are most important to people with diabetes?
People with diabetes are likely to focus on total sugars because it affects blood glucose levels. Added sugars are also on the label, but they are included in total sugars. People with diabetes may also be interested to know that we’ve changed the definition for what can be considered fiber. Since the Nutrition Facts label started to appear on food packages in the 1990’s, a lot of fibers that are isolated from food or synthesized are being added to food. The new Nutrition Facts label final rule states that fiber that is intact and comes from plants is automatically included in the new definition of dietary fiber. Any isolated or synthetic fiber must have a beneficial physiological effect on human health, such as lowering cholesterol or lowering blood glucose levels after a meal, in order to be included in the dietary fiber declaration on the label. Now any fiber counted as Dietary Fiber on the Nutrition Facts label has to have a beneficial effect.
4. How is FDA CFSAN educating and sharing the Nutrition Facts Label with the public and/ or consumers, educators, etc.?
FDA has developed a comprehensive public education campaign “The New Nutrition Facts Label: What’s in it for You?” to raise awareness about the changes to the Nutrition Facts label, increase its use, and help consumers, health care professionals, and educators learn how to us it as a tool for maintaining healthy dietary practices. The campaign includes fun videos and a wide range of other helpful information for consumers and health educators, such as social media posts, an online Interactive Nutrition Facts label, Read The Label Youth Outreach Materials, a Health Educator’s Nutrition Toolkit, free curricula for middle and high school students, information specifically for older adults, and free Continuing Medical Education (CME) videos for physicians and other healthcare professionals.
5. Can you share where people can find resources on how to use and understand the new label?
Learn about FDA OWH’s additional resources regarding diabetes management here.