Diabetic students receive help on campus and on web

Kaitlyn Coppolo

At twelve years old, senior Bryan Adams lost his appetite, lost 20 pounds and felt dehydrated, tired and moody. His life was about to change forever as he soon received a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

“I was shocked; I didn’t know what it really was,” Adams said. “I thought it was a disease you got from eating too much sugar.”

Today there are more than 20.8 million people in the United States who suffer from diabetes. One million more are diagnosed each year.

Having diabetes drastically affects a person’s life. They can no longer eat some of their favorite foods and are forced to live a healthier lifestyle.

Living at home, Adams adjusted to not eating certain foods with his family. He is the only member of the family who now drinks diet soda.

Adams controls his diabetes at Villanova more easily than at home. As starting linebacker for the football team, he constantly exercises.

“Trying to manage diabetes is hard because if you don’t, there are consequences you’ll have to deal with later in life,” Adams says.

One of the toughest challenges for a diabetic is choosing the right food to eat. Certain foods must be eliminated from their diet because they contain too much sugar or too many carbohydrates. The cousin of sophomore Ryan O’Connor, Sean Hughes, started his own company and website to help diabetics with their selection of food.

“Diabetes has been such a common disease that it plagues many members of our families all over the nation, and it is difficult to find food and snacks that are both safe to eat and have a good quality of taste,” O’Connor said. “Diabeticfoodcritic.com serves as an outlet for all diabetics to view ratings for food products based upon the quality of taste and content.”

Hughes, has had type 1 diabetes for over 10 years. He started this site to connect diabetics, forming a communication network to educate them on coping with the disease.

“This is a great forum for diabetics to expand their diets in good health and satisfying taste,” O’Connor said. Recent diabetic news is also posted with helpful links to find new information and solutions for the disease.

The Diabetic Food Critic (www.diabeticfoodcritic.com) serves as a reference for diabetics to find foods they may not have heard of but will enjoy eating. This site displays foods that are safe for diabetics to eat and can be purchased at a supermarket. People can rank the foods they like and this serves as a guide for others to use.

“It is not intended for medical use but as a forum of information based on the diabetic food critic’s opinions on the taste, packaging and dietary information for different foods that people with diabetes find at their supermarkets,” the website says. Diabetics receive information on various foods, but do not receive medical advice.

“The website also encourages its visitors to provide suggestions on what foods should be reviewed and feedback on previous reviews,” the site says.

However, not everyone follows strict rules for diabetes. Senior nose guard for the Villanova football team Adam McLaughlin also suffers from diabetes. Diagnosed in 2004, he had the classic symptoms.

“I was pretty depressed; it sucked,” McLaughlin says. “It wasn’t exactly the bright side of my day.”

Unlike Adams, though, having diabetes does not greatly impact his eating habits.

“That’s why God made insulin,” McLaughlin says. He continues to eat the foods he wants but makes sure he always takes his insulin after eating, even if it is just a snack.

Adams has had diabetes for a long time; he knows how to balance the disease and what foods to eat.

“The Diabetic Food Critic is a great reference for new diabetics and younger kids,” Adams says.

McLaughlin agrees saying he would definitely visit the website.

“It’s nice to know if I wanted to look up meals I could,” he says.

Dining Services offers foods to help diabetics adapt to their eating habits. A variety of sugar-free products are offered in the dining halls, including sugar-free jello and yogurt.

No-sugar-added ice cream products, sugar-free beverages and light bread are also available. Five sugar cereals and five non-sugar cereals are also available to students. The non-sugar cereals are high in fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar.

Nutritionist Jessica Pellicciotta can meet with students to discuss their meal plans and help them choose the right foods for their bodies. Every student she meets with (diabetic and non diabetic) receives a food journal that lists what they eat, how much and how they felt on that day.

“If everyone would follow this lifestyle – eating healthier and exercising – we’d all be fine,” Pellicciotta says. One does not need to eat only sugar-free foods. The key is control what and how much they eat.

Pellicciotta is available to help students manage their meals.”[Students can] definitely make an appointment with me to learn about carbohydrate counting, eating proper meals and keeping a food journal,” she says.

“If you take control of the disease, you can have a healthier lifestyle than normal people because of the diet,” Adams says.

Seven percent of Americans suffer from diabetes. More than six million do not know they have it. If you suffer from any of the symptoms, go to a doctor and get tested. If you currently have diabetes, the diabeticfoodcritic.com offers information about eating right and the disease as a whole.