Blood Sugar Research Targets Functional Food Applications

January 18, 2018

More than 100 million U.S. adults have diabetes or prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 9.4% of the U.S. population (or about 30.3 million people) have the disease and another 84.1 million have prediabetes.1 With diabetes reaching epidemic proportions, it’s no surprise that consumers are looking to nutraceuticals for blood sugar support, whether they’ve been diagnosed with the disease or not.

“The interest for blood sugar management ingredients has increased over the last couple of years,” says Patrick Luchsinger, marketing manager of nutrition, Ingredion Inc. (Westchester, IL). “Maintaining optimal blood sugar levels is not only important for people with diabetes, but also for the general population as well.”

Plus, says Jim Komorowski, chief scientific officer, Nutrition 21 (Purchase, NY), it’s not just consumers who are opening their minds to supplements for blood sugar: “Over time, there has been some turnover in the traditional medical community allowing for an upsurge of homeopathic or more naturally inclined physicians, who are open to exploring nutraceuticals as a recommended option for their patients.”

In response, the dietary supplement industry is taking a multi-pronged approach to tackling the diabetes problem. While some ingredients are helping consumers achieve healthier body weights, others support normal insulin function, and still others prevent oxidative stress. “Manufacturers have a unique opportunity to formulate supplements that can help on two fronts,” says Steve Holtby, president and CEO of Soft Gel Technologies Inc. (Los Angeles). “Preventing metabolic syndrome and diabetes in those at risk, and controlling the disorders in those who already have them.”

Indeed, the newest research examines the impact nutraceuticals can have on a range of consumers—from those who are overweight and, therefore, at risk of developing diabetes later on, to those with a prediabetes or type 2 diabetes diagnosis.


Recent Research
Some of the latest research in the healthy blood sugar market examines the use of natural ingredients in foods for improving metabolic function.

One study, published 2017 in Nutrition Journal, evaluated the effect of consuming muffins containing 50 grams of a branded resistant starch (Hi-Maize 260 from Ingredion Inc.) on blood glucose, subjective satiety, and markers of appetite regulation.2 Researchers recruited 18 overweight but otherwise healthy adults to consume either muffins with the ingredient or control muffins over the course of six weeks. Those who consumed the Hi-Maize muffin for six weeks had, first, decreased blood glucose concentrations compared to baseline; second, a decrease in blood leptin concentrations during the two hours after a meal; and, third, an increase in fasting blood peptide YY (associated with reduced hunger). Together, these findings suggest that the ingredient may improve metabolic functions related to appetite regulation.

A separate study examined the long-term effects of consuming bagels fortified with Hi-Maize on fasting and postprandial glycemic markers in adults with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.3 This was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized crossover dietary intervention clinical trial consisting of two eight-week dietary intervention periods separated by a four-week washout period. Researchers measured insulin resistance and beta cell function using fasting measures of glucose and insulin, and conducted an oral glucose tolerance test to assess glycemic control. Participants either consumed bagels fortified with 25 grams Hi-Maize or a control bagel made with wheat flour. 

Results showed that, among those who consumed the fortified bagel, post-treatment insulin resistance was significantly lower, and post-treatment pancreas beta-cell sensitivity improved.  Essentially, investigators concluded that consumption of high-amylose resistant starch improves glycemic efficacy by reducing the amount of insulin required to manage postprandial glucose, while also improving fasting insulin sensitivity.

These findings did not go unnoticed. “In December 2016, the FDA authorized a qualified health claim for high-amylose maize resistant starch and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, while ensuring the claim was appropriately worded so as not to be misleading,” says Luchsinger. “These claims can be used on the packaging of conventional foods, as defined by 21 CFR 101.14. Such products include bakery items, nutrition bars, cereals and pastas among others.” With snacking on the rise, Luchsinger anticipates that this claim could help brands and manufacturers create functional midday, mid-morning, energy and commuting snacks.

  1. “New CDC report: More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes,” press release issued, July 18, 2017. Accessed Jan. 7, 2017.
  2. Maziarz MA et al., “Resistant starch lowers postprandial glucose and leptin in overweight adults consuming a moderate-to-high-fat diet: A randomized-controlled trial,” Nutrition Journal, vol. 16, no. 1 (February 2017):14.
  3. Dainty SA et al., “Resistant starch bagels reduce fasting and postprandial insulin in adults at risk of type 2 diabetes,” Journal of Nutrition, vol. 146, no. 1 (Nov. 2016):2252–2259
  4. Guess ND et al., “A randomized controlled trial: the effect of inulin on weight management and ectopic fat in subjects with prediabetes,” Nutrition & Metabolism, vol 12 (2015): 36
  5. Guess ND et al., “A randomized crossover trial: The effect of inulin on glucose homeostasis in subtypes of prediabetes,” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, vol. 68, no. 1 (2016): 26–34
  6. Lightowler H et al., “Replacement of glycaemic carbohydrates by inulin-type fructans from chicory (oligofructose, inulin) reduces the postprandial blood glucose and insulin response to foods: Report of two double-blind, randomized, controlled trials,” European Journal of Nutrition (March 2017)
  7. Narsingh V et al., “A multicenter clinical study to determine the efficacy of a novel fenugreek seed (Trigonella foenum-graecum) extract (Fenfuro) in patients with type 2 diabetes,” Food & Nutrition Research, vol. 60, no. 1 (2016)