GMO Foods and How They Affect Diabetes

By Roberta Kleinman|2019-04-04T15:50:16-04:00Updated: April 4th, 2019|Diet & Nutrition, Health & Wellness|1 Comment
  • GMO

One of the buzzwords in the food growing industry is GMO’s. It seems everyone is talking about whether GMO’s are good or bad for your health. Discover more about GMO foods and how they may affect you and your diabetes.

What are GMO’s?

The term GMO stands for “genetically modified organisms”, or bio-engineered foods. Plants are manipulated by introducing new genes; gene transfers are like, “a cut and paste operation.”  Foods genetically engineered with genes are usually produced in a lab from plants, viruses or animals.

After introducing the new gene, plants are bred to create a new strain, passing the modified gene to the next generation. Genes are typically enhanced to help improve them. For example, these enhancements to the genes could help a plant resist heat, disease (virus, bacteria and fungi), insects or other common factors.

Which foods or crops use GMO’s?

The first genetically modified food was back in 1994, called the Flavr Savr tomato, which had a longer shelf life.

Typical foods genetically modified in the United States:

  • corn
  • soybeans
  • rice
  • potatoes
  • cotton
  • papaya
  • canola
  • alfalfa
  • squash- yellow and zucchini
  • arctic apples

Which animal products use GMO’s?

Animals who eat genetically modified animal feed produce foods containing GMO’s.

Some of the affected animal products include:

  • poultry
  • meat
  • milk
  • eggs
  • farm raised seafood

Are there advantages to GMO foods?

  1. The crops are better able to withstand conditions such as drought and fungus.
  2. Increasing nutrient values through genetic engineering (adding iron and zinc, for example).
  3. GMO’s offer a time saving method for producing larger and higher quality crops with less effort and expense.
  4. GMO’s can lower the price of food in the grocery stores.
  5. Animal foods are also being produced to resist particular types of illnesses.
  6. According to the United States Department of Energy, GMO’s are environmentally friendly because they are efficient and can conserve water and energy.

What are the disadvantages of GMO foods?

  1. GMO foods are risky. Research has not been done to see how the changes in the genetic makeup of foods are impacting our bodies.
  2. Preliminary testing done on animals had revealed GMO’s may have an impact on the immune system and may speed up aging and may change the function and size of various organs. Other studies have shown no affects to humans.
  3. GMO foods may also cause an allergic reaction. People with diabetes have a chronic condition that affects the immune system. It is important to have a diet that boosts your immune system rather than one that may compromise it.

Consumers with or without diabetes should be well informed about the pros and cons of GMO’s and make rational decisions whether to purchase or avoid them. Here are some reasons for each.

Do GMO foods require special labeling?

Presently, GMO foods do not have to be labeled. The FDA does not agree GMO foods differ from conventional ones. As a result, people may not know they are eating  genetically modified foods.

What can someone do to avoid GMO foods?

Often these foods are also high in sugar, fat and salt; these are all ingredients people with diabetes should try to avoid, anyways.

Here are some ways to avoid GMO foods:

  1. Limit or avoid packaged foods like boxed, bagged and food in plastic containers.
  2. Choose whole foods and natural foods for a healthy diet. Select whole grains with minimal processing, lean poultry and wild  fatty fish, fresh vegetables and fruit and non-fat or low-fat dairy foods.
  3. Eat 100% grass fed beef.
  4. Eat wild or locally fresh caught fish and avoid farm raised
  5. Choose “certified organic foods”. Even corn and soy, when organic are not GMO.
  6. Look for “ Non-GMO Project” seal. Be a food detective.
  7. Use a farm Co-Op in your area.
  8. Visit Green Markets.
  9. Grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs, when possible.
  10. Shop at specialty markets such as Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Sprout’s, Tunie’s, Trader Joe’s and other organic markets.
  11. Avoid Aspartame – a genetically engineered sweetener.
  12. Buy dry grains, beans, nuts and seeds in their whole form.
  13. Eat at Chipotle – a food chain which avoids GMO products.
  14. Use portion control platesto determine how much you should eat from each food group.
  15. Choose healthy oils like first cold pressed olive oil, and minimize use of corn, cottonseed, and soybean oil.
  16. Watch out for milks made from soybeans and rice. Use organic low-fat milk, organic soybean or almond milk.
  17. Shop at your local farmer’s market to get healthy, fresh foods at affordable prices. Local foods do not have to travel long distances which could raise shipping costs.
  18. Buy fresh foods when in season such as peaches, organic sweet corn and plums in the summer and acorns, squash and cranberries in the winter.

People with diabetes should maintain a healthy, balanced diet that includes as many fresh, unprocessed foods as possible. GMO’s are often found in packaged products, so you should limit your intake of these foods until further studies are conducted. Look for sales on organic foods.

Proper diabetes self-management through regular blood sugar testing, a good diet, regular exercise, taking your medications as prescribed and seeing your physician as recommended are the best ways to avoid possible complications. Keep reading and learning about the latest information on GMO foods.

About the Author: Roberta Kleinman

Roberta Kleinman, RN, M. Ed., CDE, is a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator. She grew up in Long Island, NY. Her nursing training was done at the University of Vermont where she received a B.S. R.N. Robbie obtained her Master of Education degree, with a specialty in exercise physiology, from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a member of the American Diabetes Association as well as the South Florida Association of Diabetes Educators. She worked with the education department of NBMC to help educate the hospital's in-patient nurses about diabetes. She practices a healthy lifestyle and has worked as a personal fitness trainer in the past. She was one of the initiators of the North Broward Diabetes Center (NBMC) which started in 1990 and was one of the first American Diabetes Association (ADA) certified programs in Broward County, Florida for nearly two decades. Robbie has educated patients to care for themselves and has counseled them on healthy eating, heart disease, high lipids, use of glucometers, insulin and many other aspects of diabetes care. The NBMC Diabetes Center received the Valor Award from the American Diabetes Center for excellent care to their patients. Robbie has volunteered over the years as leader of many diabetes support groups. More about Nurse Robbie

One Comment

  1. Betty McGee March 16, 2019 at 8:31 am - Reply

    One of the primary reasons GMOs are used today is to enable the plants to be sprayed with pesticides (glysophate/roundup) to kill the weeds around the plant without killing the plant. Has research been done to determine if the negative effects of GMO foods is related to the genetic modification or the increased use of pesticides on these foods?

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