How Many Carbs Were in That Lozenge?

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who has Type 1, was given some kind of candy to help with a coughing fit during a speech.



Theresa May, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, just experienced something many other people with Type 1 diabetes can relate to – she was handed something to eat in a social situation that had an unknown carb count. Worse yet, she was handed it in the middle of the speech and it would have been awkward if she didn’t eat it.

Prime Minister May, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes late in life, was giving an important speech this week at a convention for her Conservative (or Tory) Party. The speech was meant to reestablish her leadership after a bad election for May’s party and rumors that her foreign affairs secretary, Boris Johnson, was angling for her job.

The speech was not going well. A prankster managed to hand May a termination letter that he pretended was from Johnson. Also, a sign behind her that read “Building a Country That Works for Everyone” lost two letters in the course of the speech.

On top of all this, May had a sore throat and was in danger of losing her voice throughout the speech. Halfway through, the prime minister’s voice was strained and she was coughing out her sentences. The friendly crowd in attendance, mainly fellow Tories, was clapping loudly whenever possible to give her cover, but she was fighting to get out every sentence.

That’s when her Chancellor of Exchequer, Philip Hammond, stood up from the crowd and handed her what appeared to be a yellow lozenge or candy. The crowd voiced its approval of the gesture, and May accepted it. In fact, she made a joke of it, using the lozenge as a prop to poke fun at her party’s financial conservatism.

“I hope you noticed that, ladies and gentlemen, the chancellor giving something away free,” she said as she popped it into her mouth.

Unless Chancellor Hammond had a sugar-free lozenge ready for May just in case, which seems unlikely, then May took what was offered without stopping to worry about the carb count. According to some online nutrition sources, a lozenge only has 2 grams of carbs, but many people often use candies as lozenges, in which case the carb count would be higher.

May obviously wasn’t in immediate danger if she ingested the sweet, but if she hesitated she would have faced greater social peril than she already was facing. Like many with Type 1 at a social gathering, she made the choice of “take now, guess the carb count and correct later.”

It is telling, however, that the tweet from her account to commemorate her coughing struggles during the speech features a sugar-free lozenge (white wrapper) and a sugar-free cough-and-cold syrup.

May is struggling politically, and her coughing performance won’t help matters. In an obvious double standard, some male politicians, notably Bill Clinton, have pulled off speeches with hoarse voices and managed to win accolades for “soldiering on”, but female politicians often get such physical ailments held against them. However, when May popped the lozenge, she joined the tribe of people with Type 1 who do their best to “act normal” despite the ever-present threat of blood sugar swings that come with the condition.

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Craig Idlebrook is chief editor for Insulin Nation and Información Sobre Diabetes, and was founding editor for Type 2 Nation. You can reach him at cidlebrook@selfrx.com.