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Diabetes Type 1 and 2

DM: Executive Summary of Recommendations (2008)

Executive Summary of Recommendations

Below are the major recommendations and ratings for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Diabetes Type 1 and 2 Evidence-Based Nutrition Practice Guideline for adults. More detail (including the evidence analysis supporting these recommendations) is available on this website to Academy members and EAL subscribers by clicking Major Recommendations from the menu bar on the left.

For a description of the Academy Recommendation Rating Scheme (Strong, Fair, Weak, Consensus, Insufficient Evidence), and an explanation of the type of Recommendation (Imperative, Conditional), click here.

The Diabetes Recommendations are listed below. (Note: If you mouseover underlined acronyms and terms, a definition will pop-up.)

DM: Medical Nutrition Therapy 2008

DM: MNT and Number/Length of Initial Series of Encounters

Medical nutrition therapy (MNT) provided by a registered dietitian (RD) is recommended for individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. An initial series of three to four encounters each lasting from 45 to 90 minutes is recommended. This series, beginning at diagnosis of diabetes or at first referral to an RD for MNT for diabetes, should be completed within three to six months. The RD should determine if additional MNT encounters are needed after the initial series based on the nutrition assessment of learning needs and progress towards desired outcomes.  Studies based on a range in the number (1-5 individual sessions or a series of 6-12 group sessions) and length (45-90 minutes) report sustained positive outcomes at one year and longer. Studies implementing a variety of nutrition interventions report a reduction in A1C levels, and some studies also report improved lipid profiles, improved weight management, adjustments in medications, and reduction in the risk for onset and progression of comorbidities. 

Strong, Imperative

DM: MNT Long-Term Follow-up Encounters

At least one follow-up encounter is recommended annually to reinforce lifestyle changes and to evaluate and monitor outcomes that impact the need for changes in MNT or medication. The RD should determine if additional MNT encounters are needed.  Studies involving regular lifestyle intervention sessions (up to 1 per month) report sustained positive outcomes at one year and longer.

Strong, Imperative

Nutrition Assessment

DM: Assessment and Diabetes 2008

DM: Nutrition Assessment

The RD should assess food intake (focusing on carbohydrate), medication, metabolic control (glycemia, lipids, and blood pressure), anthropometric measurements and physical activity to serve as the basis for implementation of the nutrition prescription, goals and intervention.  Individuals who have diabetes should receive MNT tailored by the RD.

Strong, Imperative

DM: Assessment of Glycemic Control 2008

DM: Assessment of Glycemic Control

The RD should assess glycemic control and focus medical nutrition therapy to achieve and maintain blood glucose levels in the target range (target glucose levels noted in the American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes). Studies evaluating the effectiveness of diabetes MNT at three to six months reported reductions in A1C ranging from 0.25% to 2.9%.   


Strong, Imperative

DM: Assess Relative Importance of Weight Management 2008

DM: Assess Relative Importance of Weight Management

The RD should assess the relative importance of weight management for persons with diabetes who are overweight or obese.  While modest weight loss has been shown to improve insulin resistance in overweight and obese insulin-resistant individuals, research on sustained weight loss interventions lasting 1 year or longer reported inconsistent effects on A1C.

Strong, Conditional



Nutrition Intervention



DM: Intervention Options 2008

DM: Intervention Options

The RD should implement MNT selecting from a variety of interventions (reduced energy and fat intake, carbohydrate counting, simplified meal plans, healthy food choices, individualized meal planning strategies, exchange lists, insulin-to-carbohydrate ratios, physical activity and behavioral strategies).  Nutrition education and counseling should be sensitive to the personal needs, willingness to change, and ability to make changes of the individual with diabetes.  Studies reporting on effectiveness of MNT report a variety in the number and type of MNT sessions that lead to improved outcomes.

Strong, Imperative

 DM: Macronutrients 2008

DM: Macronutrient Percentages

The RD should encourage consumption of macronutrients based on the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for healthy adults.  Research does not support any ideal percentage of energy from macronutrients for persons with diabetes.

Strong, Imperative

DM: Carbohydrate 2008

DM: Carbohydrate Intake Consistency

In persons receiving either MNT alone, glucose-lowering medications or fixed insulin doses,  meal and snack carbohydrate intake should be kept consistent on a day-to-day basis. Consistency in carbohydrate intake results in improved glycemic control.

Strong, Conditional

DM: Carbohydrate Intake and Insulin Dose Adjustment

In persons with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who adjust their mealtime insulin doses or who are on insulin pump therapy,  insulin doses should be adjusted to match carbohydrate intake (insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio). This can be accomplished by comprehensive nutrition education and counseling on interpretation of blood glucose patterns,  nutrition-related medication management and collaboration with the healthcare team.  Adjusting insulin dose based on planned carbohydrate intake improves glycemic control and quality of life without any adverse effects.

Strong, Conditional

DM: Sucrose and Diabetes 2008

DM: Sucrose Intake

If persons with diabetes choose to eat foods containing sucrose,  the sucrose-containing foods should be substituted for other carbohydrate foods. Sucrose intakes of 10 to 35 percent of total energy intake do not have a negative effect on glycemic or lipid responses when substituted for isocaloric amounts of starch.

Strong, Conditional

DM: Non-nutritive Sweeteners and Diabetes 2008

DM: Non-nutritive Sweeteners

If persons with diabetes choose to consume products containing FDA-approved non-nutritive sweeteners, at levels that do not exceed the ADIs,  the RD should advise that some of these products may contain energy and carbohydrate from other sources that needs to be accounted for.  Research on non-nutritive sweeteners reports no effect on changes in glycemic response.

Fair, Conditional


DM: Glycemic Index and Diabetes 2008

DM: Glycemic Index

If the use of glycemic index is proposed as a method of meal planning, the RD should advise on the conflicting evidence of effectiveness of this strategy.  Studies comparing high versus low GI diets report mixed effects on A1C. 

Fair, Conditional

DM: Fiber and Diabetes 2008

DM: Fiber Intake and Glycemia

Recommendations for fiber intake for people with diabetes are similar to the recommendations for the general public (DRI: 14 grams per 1000 kcal). While diets containing 44 to 50 grams of fiber daily are reported to improve glycemia; more usual fiber intakes (up to 24 grams daily) have not shown beneficial effects on glycemia. It is unknown if free-living individuals can daily consume the amount of fiber needed to improve glycemia.

Strong, Imperative


DM: Fiber Intake and Cholesterol

Include foods containing 25-30 grams of fiber per day, with special emphasis on soluble fiber sources (7-13 grams).  Diets high in total and soluble fiber, as part of cardioprotective nutrition therapy, can further reduce total cholesterol by 2-3% and LDL cholesterol up to 7%.

Strong, Imperative


DM: Protein and Diabetes 2008

DM: Protein Intake and Normal Renal Function

In persons with type 1 or type 2 diabetes with normal renal function, the RD should advise that usual protein intake of approximately 15 to 20% of daily energy intake does not need to be changed. Although protein has an acute effect on insulin secretion, usual protein intake in long-term studies has minimal effects on glucose, lipids, and insulin concentrations.

Fair, Conditional

DM: Protein Intake and Nephropathy

In persons with diabetic nephropathy, a protein intake of one gram or less per kg body weight per day is recommended.  Diets with less than one gram protein per kg body weight per day have been shown to improve albuminuria in persons with nephropathy; however, they have not been shown to have significant effects on glomerular filtration rates (GFR).

Fair, Conditional

DM: Protein Intake and Late Stage Nephropathy

For persons with late stage diabetic nephropathy (Chronic Kidney Disease [CKD] Stages 3-5), hypoalbuminemia (an indicator of malnutrition) and energy intake must be monitored and changes in protein and energy intake made to correct deficits. A protein intake of approximately 0.7 grams per kg body weight per day has been associated with hypoalbuminemia, whereas a protein intake of approximately 0.9 grams per kg body weight per day has not.

Fair, Conditional

 DM: Glucose Monitoring 2008

DM: Blood Glucose Monitoring

For individuals on nutrition therapy alone or nutrition therapy in combination with glucose-lowering medications, self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) is recommended. Frequency and timing is dependent on diabetes management goals and therapies (i.e. MNT, diabetes medications and physical activity). When SMBG is incorporated into diabetes education programs and the information from SMBG is used to make changes in diabetes management, SMBG is associated with improved glycemic control.

Fair, Conditional

DM: Frequency of Blood Glucose Monitoring

For persons with type 1 or type 2 diabetes on insulin therapy, at least three to eight blood glucose tests per day are recommended to determine the adequacy of the insulin dose(s) and guide adjustments in insulin dose(s), food intake and physical activity. Some insulin regimens require more testing to establish the best integrated therapy (insulin, food, and activity). Once established, some insulin regimens will require less frequent self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG). Intervention studies that include self-management training and adjustment of insulin doses based on SMBG result in improved glycemic control.

Strong, Conditional

DM: Possible Need for Continuous Glucose Monitoring or More Frequent SMBG

Persons experiencing unexplained elevations in A1C or unexplained hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia may benefit from use of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) or more frequent SMBG.  It is essential that persons with diabetes receive education as to how to calibrate CGM and how to interpret CGM results. Studies have proven the accuracy of CGM and most show that using the trend/pattern data from CGM can result in less glucose variability and improved glucose control.

Fair, Conditional

DM: Prevention and Treatment of CVD 2008

DM: CVD and Cardioprotective Nutrition Therapy

Cardioprotective nutrition interventions for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease (CVD) should be implemented in the initial series of encounters.  Diabetes is associated with an increased risk for CVD and glycemic control may improve the lipid profile.

Strong, Imperative

DM: CVD and Cardioprotective Nutrition Interventions

Cardioprotective nutrition interventions for prevention and treatment of CVD include reduction in saturated and trans fats and dietary cholesterol, and interventions to improve blood pressure. Studies in persons with diabetes utilizing these interventions report a reduction in cardiovascular risk and improved cardiovascular outcomes.

Strong, Imperative

DM: Weight Management 2008

DM: Diabetes and Weight Management

The RD should advise that glycemic control is the primary focus for diabetes management. While decreasing energy intake may improve glycemic control, it is unclear whether weight loss alone will improve glycemic control.  Sustained weight loss interventions lasting 1 year or longer reported inconsistent effects on hemoglobin A1C.

Fair, Conditional

 DM: Physical Activity 2008

DM: Type 2 Diabetes and Physical Activity

In persons with type 2 diabetes, 90 to 150 minutes of accumulated moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week as well as resistance/strength training three times per week is recommended. Both aerobic and resistance training improve glycemic control, independent of weight loss. Physical activity also improves insulin sensitivity and decreases risk for cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.

Strong, Conditional

DM: Type 1 Diabetes and Physical Activity

Individuals with type 1 diabetes should be encouraged to engage in regular physical activity.  Although exercise is not reported to improve glycemic control in persons with type 1 diabetes, individuals may receive the same benefits from exercise as the general public—decreased risk for cardiovascular disease and improved sense of well-being.

Fair, Conditional

DM: Physical Activity and Insulin/Insulin Secretagogue Use

The RD should instruct individuals on insulin or insulin secretagogues on the safety guidelines to prevent hypoglycemia (frequent blood glucose monitoring and possible adjustment in insulin dose or carbohydrate intake).  Research indicates that the incidence of hypoglycemia during exercise may depend on baseline glucose levels.

Fair, Conditional

 DM: Coordination of Care and Diabetes 2008

DM: Coordination of Care

The RD should implement MNT and coordinate care with an interdisciplinary team.  An interdisciplinary team approach is necessary to integrate MNT for patients with diabetes into overall management.

Consensus, Imperative



Nutrition Monitoring and Evaluation


 DM: Monitor & Evaluate and Diabetes 2008

DM: Monitoring and Evaluation

The RD should monitor and evaluate food intake, medication, metabolic control (glycemia, lipids, and blood pressure), anthropometric measurements and physical activity. Research reports sustained improvements in A1C at 12 months and longer with long-term follow-up encounters with an RD. 

Strong, Imperative

DM: Evaluation of Glycemic Control

The RD should primarily use blood glucose monitoring results in evaluating the achievement of goals and effectiveness of MNT.   Glucose monitoring results can be used to determine whether adjustments in foods and meals will be sufficient to achieve blood glucose goals or if medication additions or adjustments need to be combined with MNT.

Consensus, Imperative