All sweetness and light

The brains behind Sweet, the new bi-monthly magazine on ‘health, life, diabetes and you’have the opportunity to hit pay dirt. With 2.3 million Britons now diagnosed with diabetes types 1 and 2, and another 750,000 thought to have it without knowing it yet, Sweet potentially has a ready-made and a growing readership ready for the reaping.

Recently diagnosed with diabetes, my reading to date on the subject has been relentlessly grim. You can’t get away from the fact that this is a serious condition, and one that requires from most, if not all, diabetics, a revolution in the way they live their lives if they want to stay as healthy as possible, for as long as possible. Healthy food and exercise. Every day. For the rest of your life.

So Sweet looked like it would be a bit of a treat . Its 100 pages are colourful and include newsy information, features, interviews with ‘celebrity’diabetics like TV presenter Dominic Littlewood and Corrie actress Sue Cleaver, a TV doctor for the health Q&As, recipes for tempting-looking food, and a useful directory of diabetes-related services, organisations and products.

It’s attractively designed with a light and airy touch. Easy to read, with plenty of breakers and boxes, tips, facts and pertinent points, nothing’s longer than three of its A4 pages, and even these have a big image so that the reader’s not swamped with text. It’s easy to navigate, with each of its six sections – including food, health, weight and wellbeing – having a helpful colour-coded page top.

By the time I was on page seven I’d read three warnings that Sweet is ‘no substitute for the advice of your own healthcare team”. It was something to bear in mind when I read the case study ‘How Sian got her shine back”, an upbeat double-pager on how said Sian lost three stone on a branded diet plan, at a cost of £66 a week for an initial 12 weeks.

No wonder her shine came back; coming to the end of shelling out £66 every week would do it for most people.

I’d rather have seen info on the diet in a feature about different food plans suitable for diabetics: two pages dedicated to just one seemed like overkill, and I looked to see if it was labelled ‘advertising promotion”. It wasn’t. The feature ‘All together now”, looking at diet clubs, also struck me as unbalanced: six pars on Slimming World, three on Rosemary Conley (which spectacularly failed to mention that a 30-minute workout is an integral part of the RC meetings), and just a single on Weight Watchers…

They were saved by the inclusion of the classic diabetes story of Roland, diagnosed at 60 with type 2, now five stone lighter, working out at the gym four times a week and loving life like never before. Predictable, but a morale booster nevertheless.

Then the feature on spas got me going again. Three pages that you could find in any other lifestyle/women’s interest magazine and striking an odd note in a magazine almost exclusively and specifically diabetes orientated. Now if Sweet had secured a discount at one or two of them for its readers… The redeeming factors here were its list of safety tips and a competition.

But top bugbear was the recipes. All sounded and looked delicious, but their nutritional information was given as per serving, not as percentages of 100g, a standard rating. As such, it’s difficult to gauge whether their fat/protein/carb/sugar levels are low, medium or high – all very important for controlling blood glucose levels as well as weight. Yet just a few pages on was a guide to the Food Standards Agency’s breakdown of low, medium and high ratings, given as percentages of 100g. Point proven?

It was the news pages – some 11 in all and attached to each of the sections – that scored highly, a real bonus for getting the latest gen on health research, new products and events. They aren’t the place for rogue non-diabetic stuff, such as the piece on credit card fraud, or shopping ethically for that matter, which I can only imagine went in as space fillers.

The advertising too brought something to the diabetic feast, as the ads were almost all 100 per cent relevant to living with diabetes. I’m already looking out for Werther’s Original sugar-free sweets, and have sent off for a free sample of a new blood-sampling system.

Sweet’s editorial team, headed by editor Christine Michael, will need to take care over their choice of content if they want to build trust with the readership, which should be central to its future success. It will also be interesting to see how fresh the team can keep the subject matter which will, given the quite specific subject matter, inevitably have to be repeated over time.

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