Why Are Diabetics More Prone to Malnutrition?

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Living with diabetes is a constant balancing act. From monitoring blood sugar levels to managing dietary choices, individuals with diabetes face unique challenges in maintaining their health. One significant concern for many diabetic patients is the increased risk of malnutrition. Research has shown that nearly half of type 2 diabetes patients experience weight loss or malnutrition due to improper diet. But why does this condition make them more susceptible to nutritional deficiencies? How can dietary control ensure that patients do not suffer from nutritional deficiencies?


Malnutrition is common among diabetics. There are four main reasons for this:

1. Limited food choices

Many diabetics are concerned about the impact of diet on their blood sugar levels, so they may consciously restrict their food intake to control blood sugar. Consequently, this reduction in nutrient intake can lead to malnutrition.

2. Adverse reactions to hypoglycemic medications

Some oral hypoglycemic medications can affect patients' absorption and utilization of nutrients. For example, long-term use of metformin may cause vitamin B12 malabsorption, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors may cause gastrointestinal adverse reactions, and there may be occasional cases of reduced iron absorption or anemia.

3. Intestinal lesions affecting absorption

Complications of the digestive system are common in diabetic patients, with an incidence of about 50%. The most common is diabetic gastroparesis, which can cause discomfort when swallowing, upper abdominal distension, or belching. In severe cases, gastric retention or refractory vomiting may occur, leading to digestive disorders.

Additionally, intestinal dysfunction can cause chronic diarrhea, leading to impaired digestion and absorption in patients.

4. Excessive excretion

Polyuria is a typical symptom of diabetes. Increased urinary output can also lead to the excretion of trace elements and minerals with the patient's urine. Once kidney damage occurs, the permeability of the glomerulus increases, leading to more and more loss of albumin in the blood. When the protein synthesized in the body and the liver is insufficient to compensate for the loss, the albumin in the blood will decrease, leading to hypoalbuminemia.


Malnutrition can impair the muscle function and bone mass of diabetics, reduce physical activity, increase the risk of falls and fractures, cause immune dysfunction, and even increase the risk of infection.

At the same time, malnutrition can also affect diabetics' blood sugar control, increasing the risk of blood sugar fluctuations and hypoglycemia. In addition to drug therapy and increased exercise, nutritional therapy is essential.

It is recommended that diabetics achieve and maintain blood sugar levels close to normal by balancing energy and nutrient intake, exercise levels, and medication therapy.

Specifically, diabetics can achieve a reasonable diet by starting from the following three aspects:

1. Control total energy and plan meals scientifically

Ensuring adequate energy supply while maintaining nutritional balance is essential for proper dietary management. Carbohydrates should provide 50% to 65% of the total dietary energy, consisting of a variety of components and high levels of soluble fiber. Fat should contribute 20% to 30% of the energy intake, while protein should account for 15% to 20% of total energy.

2. Eat small, frequent meals and stick to timely portions

It's advisable to distribute meals throughout the day, aiming for 3 to 6 meals per day. Choose foods wisely, aiming for variety, and break unhealthy eating habits. Chew food slowly, prolonging mealtimes, and alternate between vegetables and staples. Additionally, pay attention to the combination of course and fine grains in your diet.

3. Limit alcohol consumption

Alcohol intake can strain the liver and is also high in energy. Diabetic patients without drinking habits should avoid alcohol consumption as much as possible. For those who regularly consume alcohol, moderation is key. Opt for low-alcohol beverages, avoid drinking on an empty stomach, and ensure that the energy from alcohol is included in the total daily energy intake.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, the relationship between diabetes and malnutrition is multifaceted, involving dietary restrictions, medication side effects, digestive complications, and excessive excretion. It's imperative for diabetic patients to prioritize a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs while managing blood sugar levels effectively. By understanding the factors contributing to malnutrition and implementing strategies such as careful meal planning, portion control, and moderation in alcohol consumption, individuals with diabetes can enhance their overall health and reduce the risk of complications associated with both malnutrition and uncontrolled blood sugar levels.

Author: Sarah Y

Note: All information on Sinocare blog articles is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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