Why Most Drugstore Diabetes Pubs Suck

When you go in to your local Walgreens, Rite-Aid, CVS or the like, do you find racks of those colorful but flimsy little throw-away diabetes magazines staring at you? Do you ever pick them up and look through them? Well I just can’t help myself. And often times, they make me really mad.

Free_magazines Last month, for example, I picked up a copy of something called Diabetes Health Monitor, which brags on the cover that it’s “favorably reviewed” by the AADE. I flipped through it and found some things that just seemed to be sending the wrong messages to PWDs.

First off, in a diet section called “Tasty Alternatives to Your Favorites” — supposedly about cutting back on carbs — one of three recipes featured was for “Cajun Chicken Over Fettuccine.” Carb count? 66 grams per serving. Why on Earth would an article on low-carb eating promote fettuccine?

Likewise, in a section on “Valentine’s Day Without the Sweets,” the magazine recommends so-called “Blueberry bouquets.” The idea is to “gather some blueberries, and add some raspberries, strawberries, grapes and a few melon balls. Skewer them on slender wooden sticks… and ‘plant’ them in a cantaloupe” for a healthy bouquet. Hello?! Hasn’t anyone over there got the memo about what a fruit-bomb like that does to your blood glucose if you have diabetes? I know the audience for these pubs is primarily Type 2s, but even they would need a good two-hour walk to burn down this kind of fructose-induced BG spike, I’d imagine.

Finally, even the cover story was pretty hard to swallow. It featured an obviously overweight family practice physician in Wichita Falls, TX, who recently had an epiphany when he got diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes himself. “I know the how and why of diabetes,” he writes. “It’s just that they applied to my patients, not me. I’ve told hundreds how to watch their diet, keep their weight down, see their eye doctor frequently, and check their feet for infections. Now that I’m the patient, I know how tough it is for them to follow those instructions. I like to eat… I never saw a cookie I didn’t like.

I know I ought to be thankful for such true confessions. But all this story did for me was remind me of how common this is: hundreds of doctors out there across the country preaching at diabetes patients to eat right, live right, and be extremely disciplined, while they’re indulging away without a care in the world. It just frustrates the heck out of me to think of how many physicians really haven’t got a clue what their “instructions” mean for real people in real life.

Needless to say, I now grimace and look the other way when I see those “free copy” diabetes pubs winking at me in the pharmacy. Have any of you found anything valuable there, by chance?

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24 Responses

  1. George
    George March 18, 2008 at 9:00 am | | Reply

    I agree with you 100%. I never pick up the freebie publications in the drugstore anymore. I also don’t read the recipes published in ADA magazine – Most are extremely high glycemic recipes which a diabetic does not need.

  2. Kendra
    Kendra March 18, 2008 at 9:28 am | | Reply

    The only way you can get away with that much fruit or pasta in one sitting is with carefully dosed insulin and testing, testing, testing afterwards; those recipes are definitely out there for Type IIs and aren’t helpful alternatives or necessarily healthier for ANY type of diabetic. Just eat some ding-danged candy; it’ll do just about the same (or maybe even less?) damage. Does ANYONE get what a carb is?! Argh.

  3. Lili
    Lili March 18, 2008 at 9:34 am | | Reply

    I like the Walgreens one, although I admit part of that is that it has coupons.

  4. JasonJayhawk
    JasonJayhawk March 18, 2008 at 12:00 pm | | Reply

    Coupons and entertainment, and they create a desire to write better articles! :-)

  5. Khurt Louis Francis Elliot Williams

    I could feel the sleep induced sugar coma coming on just reading the description of the description of the “Blueberry bouquets.”

  6. geekgirl
    geekgirl March 18, 2008 at 2:53 pm | | Reply

    I read them for the lolz. (T1, 26 years)

  7. Scott
    Scott March 18, 2008 at 3:01 pm | | Reply

    I could understand these freebie magazines if they somehow sold the services of the pharmacy chain that was distributing them, recommending all the great things that Walgreens/CVS/Rite Aid, Stop & Shop (the East Coast equivalent to Safeway) could do, but instead they don’t seem to even do much of that.

    I cannot help but wonder why, then, do the drugstores even distribute these things? Do they get slotting fees or something? I decided its better not to read these things … there aren’t even discount coupons in them for anything!

  8. CALpumper
    CALpumper March 18, 2008 at 7:19 pm | | Reply

    I agree Scott. What is the store’s incentive? Do they really back these freebies? Do they even know what is in them?

    Rite Aid is pretty decent, Diabetes Guide is free at the store. Rite for Diabetes: in partnership with dLife is free online.

    The others do make me wonder…..

  9. Karen
    Karen March 18, 2008 at 7:44 pm | | Reply

    What is worse than that you ask?

    The training manual for the Medtronic CGM. A beautiful slim girl, I believe Type 1, eating a big honking piece of carrot cake.

    Yea she will have the readings of her bgs on the CGM which no doubt if bolused incorrectly will show sky high numbers with two up arrows and just as she hopefully returns back to normal bgs, at about the 2-3 hour mark the CGM will again show high numbers later when the fat from the cream cheese frosting kicks in.

    That advertisement on a totally dedicated tool to monitor bgs is just outrageous to me.

  10. Marina Martin
    Marina Martin March 19, 2008 at 1:03 am | | Reply

    First, I agree that those publications are a whole lot of fluff, same as the vast majority of diabetes books just make my jaw drop.

    If I was writing something to be read by newbie diabetics, I would go out of my way to triple-check even things I absolutely knew to be true. It is beyond irresponsible to print misguided information in this area.

    That said… I’m actually sitting here questioning *your* blog post in response. Fruit does not equal a huge spike. Low carb diets are not ideal for diabetics. High-fat, high-protein meals are the death of me — I eat a hamburger, bolus for 2x as many carbs as it has, and I’m sailing into 300 a good 6-8 hours later. Fruit? No problem. A normal bolus and my CGMS never beeps that I go about 150 at any point.

    You should read “Pumping Insulin” which is what gave me a really clear picture (10 years into being diagnosed) of what I should and should not be eating. My A1cs have never been better on a vegan, high-carb, low-fat plan.

  11. geekgirl
    geekgirl March 19, 2008 at 2:31 am | | Reply

    Hi Marina,
    I really like the ‘net term “YMMV” – your milage may vary. For me, some fruits spike my blood sugar, and some don’t. It seems very individual. My mom used to call grapes and rasins “sugar bombs” because of how they’d dramatically affect my blood sugar.

    The idea is not that certain foods are off limits, it’s the bait and switch of the recipes and lucious photographs. (Anthony Bourdain calls it “food porn”.) Publications put out magazines with supposed-informational articles, but they’re luring people in with pictures of what to me are large portions of carb-dense foods. And the publications are not saying directly “eat whatever you want and just take your (increasingly expensive) medicine – the pharmaceutical companies fund our rag” but I start to get that idea from the mixed-messages they send.

  12. Michelle
    Michelle March 19, 2008 at 5:56 am | | Reply

    My son usually sees them and generally will walk over and peek. And then shakes his head because even at 7 years old he knows that’s there’s a difference in what he has and what’s being peddled in those books.

  13. anonlurkermom
    anonlurkermom March 19, 2008 at 8:22 am | | Reply

    I am still fuming over a bulk mail piece I received from Prevention Magagzine. It was all about “curing” your diabetes with nary a distinction between T1 and T2. Luckily, my darling daughter didn’t see it. We really need another name for T2!

  14. Martha Mallonee
    Martha Mallonee March 19, 2008 at 10:36 am | | Reply

    Yea, ever since I made the mistake of buying one of those Rodale books that promised to provide me with a complete list of high vs. low glycemic foods, I keep getting all this propaganda on herbals, unbelievable recipes, etc. It’s a huge market out there. As a type II, 3 years into the diagnosis, the only thing I really understand about all of it is that everyone reacts differently to foods. Fruit? For me, it depends. I would never eat a whole fruit salad in one sitting and I wouldn’t be able to eat anything if I wasn’t able to walk a lot afterwards.

  15. Judy
    Judy March 19, 2008 at 12:28 pm | | Reply

    OMG, I couldn’t read or react to all you said about this article because the doctor you quoted is from MY hometown! You wouldn’t happen to remember his/her name, would you? Wichita Falls, Tx is woefully lacking in doctors who have the slightest clue about diabetes of either type! Actually Wichita Falls is woefully lacking in doctors who have a clue about anything! Those persons who have the money to see any doctor they want—ie not dependent on insurance payments “in network”—drive to Dallas or Houston or Oklahoma City or to Lawton, Ok to see a doctor who can keep them alive a little longer!
    I can certainly picture this doctor handing our the advice he said he/she did to his diabetic patients! A slightly elevated blood glucose here usually gets you a prescription for Metformin (known here as the “magic pill”) and sent home to resume life and eating as usual! No education, no meter—not even what your bg number was in the first place! I sincerely hope that this doctor sent himself to the only diabetes education class in town so he/she could gain some knowledge! The class is expensive and some insurance companies will not pay even a portion of the class but is all the real education in town!

    Now to the publications! I, too, usually pick them up, read them and trash them after laughing wildly! I assume that the publications are there for the ads that are contained in them! Always something that you “need” to control diabetes!

    Seriously, do you remember the doctors’ name?

  16. AmyT
    AmyT March 19, 2008 at 5:19 pm | | Reply

    Judy: true confessions. The guy’s name is Dr. Webb Key. (But you didn’t hear it here ;)

  17. adam
    adam March 19, 2008 at 6:29 pm | | Reply

    I thought you meant the eating establishments where you can sit at a wooden bar and order a sandwich and a salad along with a cold draught beer.
    They’re the only pubs I pay attention to.

  18. Janis Roszler, RD, CDE, LD/N
    Janis Roszler, RD, CDE, LD/N March 20, 2008 at 12:35 pm | | Reply

    Hi Amy,
    I am on the medical advisory board of Walgreen’s Diabetes & You magazine and write many of its articles.

    Diabetes & You is written by a wonderfully talented group of experts. We make a real effort to cover important diabetes lifestyle issues in a clear and concise way and even include informative profiles of celebrities with diabetes (Larry King, Randy Jackson, etc). The reading level is relatively low, so folks who have literacy challenges can gain valuable info as well. I noticed that one of your readers said that she enjoyed the Walgreen’s magazine. I don’t know about the other publications, but I’m very proud of ours.
    Best,
    Janis

  19. Carla Spurgeon
    Carla Spurgeon March 20, 2008 at 11:06 pm | | Reply

    I thought that as a newbie these mags would help me…NOT! No wonder so many people have to worry about losing weight with diabetes when they are brainwashed with this mis-information! Thank you for calling attention to this problem!

    I’m your rare type 2 skinny mini that lost 100 lbs on the way to finding out that I have type 2. Show me ONE magazine article that addresses the issues I have…always hungry, can’t have the carbs and am NOT trying to lose weight?
    In 2 years, I haven’t seen one article in all these rags that addresses the issues some of us real people have.
    If you find such a mag/article, please let us know!

  20. Andrea
    Andrea March 30, 2008 at 4:23 pm | | Reply

    Hi Amy, I definitely agree with you on the drugstore pubs, but I’m confused by the pic you have accompanying your post. You have the Kraft “Food & Family” magazine pictured, which is not a drugstore pub at all. I have no connection to Kraft, and somehow got on their mailing list for this quarterly magazine, and I think it is actually really helpful as food publications go. Sure, it exists to be a handy advertisement for kraft products, but they have nice, simple recipes that I have found to be very accessible and family-oriented. And if you want to use non-kraft cheese, that’s your choice ;-)

  21. AmyT
    AmyT March 31, 2008 at 1:06 pm | | Reply

    Andrea,
    You caught me on the photo issue. I couldn’t find pix of the freebie mags I wanted, so I settled for an image of something “close.” Glad to hear this one is actually better.

  22. None Given
    None Given April 5, 2008 at 1:38 pm | | Reply

    It isn’t fructose in fruit that spikes you. Fructose goes directly to your liver to be turned into triglycerides, it has no direct effect on BG.

  23. Melanie
    Melanie September 4, 2008 at 11:55 am | | Reply

    Hello AmyT, I have been looking for Dr. Webb Key(seriously). Do you know how I can locate him?

  24. Nancy L.
    Nancy L. January 10, 2009 at 3:11 pm | | Reply

    Melanie: Dr. Key is retired from active practice of medicine. He is supporting himself and his family at present with medical writings. He also happens to be a high-school classmate of mine, and is a VERY good guy. I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes a little over a year ago, and he has been of great help to me in my learning curve and understanding of things.

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