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05-18-2018 | Nutritional management | Article

Adherence to special diets and its association with meeting the nutrient recommendations in individuals with type 1 diabetes

Acta Diabetologica

Authors: A. J. Ahola, C. Forsblom, Per-Henrik Groop

Publisher: Springer Milan



Not much is known about adherence to special diets in type 1 diabetes, characteristics of individuals with special diets, and whether such practices should raise concerns with respect to meeting the dietary recommendations. In this study, we assessed the frequencies of adherence to special diets, in a population of individuals with type 1 diabetes, and investigated the association between special diet adherence and dietary intake, measured as dietary patterns and nutrient intakes.


During the Finnish Diabetic Nephropathy Study visit, participants with type 1 diabetes (n = 1429) were instructed to complete a diet questionnaire inquiring about the adherence to special diets. The participants also completed a food record, from which energy and nutrient intakes were calculated.


In all, 36.6% participants reported adhering to some special diet. Most commonly reported special diets were lactose-free (17.1%), protein restriction (10.0%), vegetarian (7.0%), and gluten-free (5.6%) diet. Special diet adherents were more frequently women, older, had longer diabetes duration, and more frequently had various diabetes complications. Mean carbohydrate intakes were close to the lower levels of the recommendation in all diet groups, which was reflected in low mean fibre intakes but high frequencies of meeting the sucrose recommendations. The recommendation for saturated fatty acid intake was frequently unmet, with the highest frequencies observed in vegetarians. Of the micronutrients, vitamin D, folate, and iron recommendations were most frequently unmet, with some differences between the diet groups.


Special diets are frequently followed by individuals with type 1 diabetes. The adherents are more frequently women, and have longer diabetes duration and more diabetes complications. Achieving the dietary recommendations differed between diets, and depended on the nutrient in question. Overall, intakes of fibre, vitamin D, folate, and iron fell short of the recommendations.

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