Emma Burns is a bright and bubbly 11-yearold girl like any other, who enjoys sleepovers with her friends and is excited about going to high school in 2013.
Delve deeper though, and you discover that Emma was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was just two.
While she lives a happy and independent life today, it was not always so simple for the Newcastle youngster. Before participating in HMRI’s diabetes diet study, Emma and her mother Kim had to follow a strict series of tables and measurements to calculate her food and insulin levels.
“Before the study we used to calculate exactly everything that Emma ate,” Kim said.
“Our family had to devote a large amount of the day to Emma’s diet and it was a constant stress when we wanted to go out for a meal.”
Any childhood disease can become extremely taxing for families as they fit clinic visits, medications and intensive therapies into an already hectic lifestyle. HMRI researcher Carmel Smart, a Senior Paediatric Diabetes and Endocrine Dietician at the John Hunter Children’s Hospital, has focused her research on counteracting just this.
Carmel’s research demonstrated that carbohydrate counting down to the last gram did not improve the accuracy of insulin treatment in children with type 1 diabetes.
Instead, Carmel proved that estimating carbohydrate portions worked just as effectively.
The outcomes of this study mean life-changing results for children like Emma. “No studies have looked at this very practical issue that has the potential to make a difference in the daily lives of children with diabetes,” Carmel said.
“I’ve made it my goal to give families the right information and the flexibility to help them manage diabetes more effectively.”
As research progresses, the role of food is being successfully changed from a major hurdle to something that diabetic children can enjoy.
“This method of carbohydrate counting has allowed us to relax and Emma now has the freedom to go out with her friends without having to worry about food or her diabetes,” Kim said.
Adds Emma: “I feel like everybody else now … I feel normal and I have a normal life, I just need to do a few extra things than my friends.”