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Diabetes and Winter

Medical nutrition therapy is integral to diabetes care and management. Balance between dietary intake and energy consumption through daily physical activities is the most influential factor in the glycemic control of type 2 diabetic patients. The nutritional prescription made for a diabetic individual is usually determined by taking into consideration the expected physical activity, diabetes complication(s), and age.1

Blood glucose control in patients with diabetes mellitus (DM) is reportedly influenced by the seasons, with hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels decreasing in the summer or warm season and increasing in the winter or cold season.2

Keep testing your blood

The cold weather can leave you with cold hands which can make blood testing more difficult. Don’t let the cold put you off doing your tests though.

Regular testing will help you to catch any highs, or lows, and keep your sugar levels under control. If your hands are cold, try warming them up on a warm mug or on a radiator with a towel or thick clothing over it, before doing your test.3

Keep your activity levels up

A little activity each day will help with insulin sensitivity (in all types of diabetes) which can help the body to better regulate sugar levels.

Particularly if you are using insulin, keep a watch of your blood sugar levels in case your insulin requirements go down. Bear in mind that activity can affect blood glucose for up to 48 hours.

If the cold outside puts you off exercising, expend some energy inside the home. Dancing, jumping, indoor aerobics, yoga, tai chi, climbing the stairs a few times and even a bit of house work will all get your muscles working. Even games on consoles like the Nintendo Wii or Xbox Kinect can help you to get active in the comfort of your living room.

Keep an eye on your diet

Colder weather can affect your diet in a number of ways. People tend to eat more during the winter as they are more likely to eat ‘comfort foods’ and cold trips to the shops may give way to ordering takeaways.

Your body may ask for more calories to fuel itself against the cold, this is a natural response from the body, just make sure you don’t over eat and stick to right foods.

The best foods are those that are the most natural.

Ready meals, takeaways and snacks tend to have short term satisfaction, often leaving you hungry again within 2 or 3 hours. Home cooked meals and natural snacks such as modest portions of fruit and nuts are a great basis for a healthy diet, regardless of the season.

Visiting the shops is a good way to get some extra activity into your day, just make sure you wrap up warm and take some warm gloves for carrying those shopping bags.

Keep illnesses away

Treating a cold, healing from injury or having surgery is no fun for anyone. For people with diabetes, managing blood sugar is an extra concern. The stress of illness or injury can cause blood sugar to rise. It can also make insulin work less well. This can lead to serious problems, including diabetic coma. That’s why it’s important to know what to do when illness strikes.4

1 Ishii H, Suzuki H, Baba T, Nakamura K, Watanabe T. Seasonal variation of glycemic control in type 2 diabetic patients. Diabetes care. 2001 Aug 1;24(8):1503-.
2 Tsujimoto T, Yamamoto-Honda R, Kajio H, Kishimoto M, Noto H, Hachiya R, Kimura A, Kakei M, Noda M. Seasonal variations of severe hypoglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and non-diabetes mellitus: clinical analysis of 578 hypoglycemia cases. Medicine. 2014 Nov;93(23).
3 Over the winter months diabetic patients of all diabetes types tend to have higher HbA1c levels than during the warmer months. With snow, ice and frost all threatening, sugar levels can creep up whilst the temperature drops. [Internet]. Diabetes. 2020 [cited 13 December 2020]. Available from:
4 How to Manage Diabetes During Illness – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. 2020 [cited 13 December 2020]. Available from:

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