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Sugar reduction and hypo treatments: frequently Asked Questions

Whilst we support sugar reduction as an important measure to reduce our risk of Type 2 diabetes we are acutely aware that people living with diabetes may rely on a sugary food or drink to manage their hypos. This page considers some of the key concerns and advice we give to people using sugary soft drinks and foods to treat their hypos.

Why is the Government focusing on reducing sugar in our food and drinks?

On average we’re all eating too much sugar. This can lead to weight gain and in turn increase our risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and other health conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. That’s why the Government has announced two main measures to reduce the sugar content in our food and drinks. 

The first is the Sugary Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) sometimes called the ‘sugar tax.’ This Levy will charge soft drink manufacturers for producing soft drinks that are high in added sugar.  The aim of this is to encourage the soft drink industry to change their recipes to reduce the sugar content in their drinks to avoid the added charge. It will come into force in April 2018. The second is the sugar reduction programme, which is being run by Public Health England. Its aim is to reduce the amount of sugar in foods by 20 per cent by 2020. This focuses on the food products most commonly eaten by children, so things like sweets, chocolate, yoghurts and biscuits to name just a few. The work on this is underway. 

Do Diabetes UK support the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (sugar tax) and the sugar reduction programme?

Yes, we do. We need to reduce the nation’s weight as a way to reduce the numbers of people with Type 2 diabetes, and to help people manage their diabetes better. To do this we need to reduce the amount of sugar we are all eating.We’re aware that these measures have caused concern for some who may use sugary food and drinks to treat hypos as it will lead to a change in the carbohydrate and sugar content of many commonly used products. We are engaging with Government and manufacturers to make sure we have the latest nutritional information of commonly used hypo treatments to share with you. In addition to engaging with Government and industry, we’ve also been engaging with people living with diabetes throughout, seeking your views on the soft drinks industry levy to inform our consultation response. We also conducted a survey to find out more about how people are managing their hypo treatments, this survey is now closed and we will be sharing the results soon.

Will the sugar content of my hypo treatment change? How will I know?

The simple answer is that some will, some won’t. As both the Levy and the sugar reduction programme allow the food industry to decide what to do next, some are planning to reduce the sugar content, some are already doing it and some will choose to do nothing, keeping the same recipe. For this reason it will not always be clear if and when companies have reduced the sugar content of their food or drinks, and they may not publicise any changes. It is also likely that when a company does change the sugar content there may be a time when both old and new recipes of the same product are on sale at the same time, as the old recipe sells out. 

This means it is vital that if you use a sugary drink or food to treat a hypo that you regularly check the label of the product you use to make sure you consume enough to treat a hypo. 

You may also want to have a conversation with your diabetes team about the different options and best treatments for a hypo to ensure that the appropriate amount of carbohydrate is taken. If you or someone you are caring for is having hypos regularly we recommend you speak to the diabetes team, so that they can review the best treatment and management options.

Further advice on managing hypos in children

Further advice on managing hypos in teens

Further advice on managing hypos in adults 

Find out more about how to read food labels Download our guide to food labels 

I often use Lucozade, I’ve heard their products are changing is this true and what does it mean for hypos? 

Yes, Lucozade have reduced the amount of sugar in their products. We know that some people may choose to use Lucozade as a hypo treatment. 

New products now contain approximately 50% fewer glucose based carbohydrates than before.  This means you are likely to need to drink more to use this product to treat a hypo. New products will appear on shelves from April 2017, so it is possible that old and new recipes may appear on the shelf at the same time. Therefore it is vital that you check the label of your bottle before you use it as a hypo treatment to double check how much you will have to drink. 

We have been working with Lucozade to help advise people who may use this product to treat a hypo. You'll find more information on theLucozade website

We know that people use lots of different products to treat their hypos. It is likely that the sugar content of these will change over time as well so it’s important to check the label of your hypo treatment of choice regularly.

You may also want to have a conversation with your diabetes team about the different options and best treatments for a hypo to ensure that the appropriate amount of carbohydrate is taken.

We have been working with Lucozade to help advise people who may use this product to treat a hypo. You'll find more information on the Lucozade website. 

Will the Levy make my hypo treatment of choice more expensive?

We don’t know yet. This all depends on how individual soft drinks companies respond to the Levy. Some will reduce the amount of sugar in their products in order to avoid the added charge. Others may choose to keep their products the same and keep their prices the same. Whereas some may choose to not reduce sugar and charge shoppers more. We won’t know the full impact until late in 2018. We will of course be monitoring this impact, as will the Government. It’s worth remembering that some hypo treatments are available for free through the NHS. It’s also worth noting that the prices of these products may increase for reasons other than the sugar content. 

What other products can I use to treat hypos?

Adults are advised to treat a hypo immediately with 15–20g of fast-acting carbohydrate – so as long a product contains this amount, then it will be suitable. There are many options for treating a hypo. Examples include sugary non-diet drinks, glucose tablets, sweets such as jelly babies, pure fruit juice or glucose gels. Some treatments (glucose gels and tablets) can be prescribed for free for people with diabetes at risk of hypos. Find more information on treating hypos here The choice of hypo treatment is very individual – it will depends on a number of things such as what works best for you, taste preference and how easy it is to store and carry, as is the amount needed and which treatment works best.If you are not sure what hypo treatment is best and how much to have please consult your healthcare professional for more advice. 

I am a healthcare professional and use sugary drinks in a clinical setting as part of an OGTT to diagnose OGTT diabetes/ or gestational diabetes, should I change the products I am using?

Potentially, yes. As explained above the choice of whether to reduce the sugar content in products is down to the companies themselves. This will mean different companies will respond in different ways and at difference speeds. They may not always publicise when they have reduced the sugar content either.So it is imperative that you check the product that you use in a clinical setting before use, to ensure you are using enough. Alternatively, you could use a suitable prescribed product.

For more information please see a blog from our Head of Care

For further advice please contact ourHelpline.

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