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14-11-2010 | Diabetes | Article

Telemedicine may reduce diabetics’ food insecurities


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MedWire News: Low-income diabetics who live in rural areas and have concerns about sufficient food availability can still adhere to a diabetes-appropriate diet if given nutritional counseling using telemedicine, a US study suggests.

"Both diabetes and obesity are more common in food-insecure households compared to food-secure households," say Ruth Weinstock (State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Syracuse) and colleagues.

This food insecurity among patients with diabetes must be addressed, as "adequate availability of appropriate food and meal planning are two essential components for diabetes self-care and are related to glycemic control," they add.

Weinstock and co-authors investigated the prevalence of food insecurity among 74 diabetics, aged at least 55 years, living in rural areas of central and northern upstate New York.

All patients completed a 10-question 12-month Food Security Scale questionnaire. The answers given in this questionnaire were used to categorize each patient as food secure (no affirmative answers), mildly food insecure (one to five affirmative answers), or severely food insecure (six to 10 affirmative answers).

Each patient received telemedicine intervention in the form of nutrition counseling by a dietician or a nurse educator on a monthly basis.

The findings, reported in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, show that 77% of patients had no food insecurity, 23% had mild food insecurity, and no patients had severe food insecurity.

Patients reporting mild food insecurity had higher body mass indexes and were more likely to have annual household incomes of less than US $20,000 (€14,691) than food secure patients.

Weinstock and colleagues also observed that although few patients (4%) overall actually ever experienced running out of food, 10% expressed having concerns that food would run out before they could afford to buy more, and 14% reported that they sometimes could not afford to eat balanced meals.

The majority of patients reported that they bought fresh food and considered the dietician's advice when buying their food, at 97% and 85%, respectively. Furthermore, 51% reported that they followed the dietician's advice 5-7 days per week.

Weinstock and team say: "Food insecurity may become a greater problem for older patients living on fixed incomes as the cost of food rises."

They conclude that telemedicine can help to provide patients with diabetes with "nutrition education with sensitivity to food insecurity issues."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lauretta Ihonor