This April, at its World Health Day celebration, the World Health Organization (WHO) took the unprecedented step of releasing its first Global Report on Diabetes. The report highlights the need to increase both prevention and treatment of the disease, in light of finding that the number of people with diabetes has nearly quadrupled since 1980 to reach 422 million adults worldwide (about 8.5% of the population), most of whom live in developed countries. WHO cited overweight and obesity as driving this increase.
“High blood sugar levels are not an isolated condition,” says Mitch Skop, senior director of product development at Pharmachem Laboratories Inc. (Kearny, NJ). “Ignored and unattended, it can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and limb amputation.” According to the WHO report, diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths in 2012, as well as an additional 2.2 million deaths by increasing the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases. About 40% of these deaths could have been prevented, WHO estimates, through better prevention and treatment.
In an effort to help diabetes patients and at-risk individuals manage their blood sugar levels, researchers and formulators alike are focusing on carbohydrates.
“Leading scientists and academics worldwide agree that there is convincing evidence that eating a low-glycemic diet while still going for a carbohydrate-rich diet in the long run reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and helps to control blood glucose in people with diabetes,” says Jon Peters, president of Beneo Inc. (Morris Plains, NJ), citing a study recently published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.1 The study found that the glycemic index (GI) was a valid and reproducible method of classifying carbohydrates, and that low-GI diets were relevant to the prevention and management of diabetes. Further, researchers confirmed that a low-GI diet should be considered in the context of quality carbohydrates like fiber-rich options and whole grains.
In the nutraceuticals industry, this could translate to opportunities for growth in functional foods. “With increasing challenges placed on society by diet-related diseases such as impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes, there is increased emphasis on food and drink producers to develop new, lower-glycemic-response products and make them available and easy to identify for consumers,” adds Peters. “Ingredients that help lower the glycemic load of products and levels, while maintaining taste and texture, will become more relevant in new product formulations.”
Along these lines, Kamut International (Missoula, MT) recently found that its Khorasan wheat products can positively impact blood insulin and glucose. In the study, two different products were supplied to volunteers with type 2 diabetes: products made with ancient Kamut grain and products made with modern wheat. Each participant was required to eat both the ancient- and modern-wheat products, but in two separate eight-week periods. They were instructed not to change their diet or lifestyle habits, or any use of medications. Blood glucose levels taken at the beginning and end of each trial period found that Kamut wheat produced a significant improvement in key markers in the blood, including glucose (-9.1%) and insulin (-16.3%). No significant effect was noted after consumption of the modern-wheat diet. “As far as the nutraceutical industry goes, it may give much added support to their claim that superfoods may be more important than synthetic drugs in addressing long-term effects of chronic disease, in addition to mediating that disease as well,” adds Bob Quinn, PhD, organic farmer and founder of Kamut.
At Ingredion Inc. (Bridgewater, NJ), ingredient research is evolving to address carbohydrate metabolism and its long-term effects on glycemic health. Two studies published since 2015 each examined the effects of high-amylose corn resistant starch (branded as Hi-Maize at Ingredion) on insulin sensitivity and carbohydrate metabolism.
The first study evaluated the effects of high-amylose corn resistant starch on insulin sensitivity in women.2 Among the participants—generally healthy overweight and obese women with insulin resistance—insulin sensitivity was increased by 16% following consumption of 30 g/day of resistant starch compared to the control.
The second study examined the chronic effects of consuming bagels fortified with Hi-Maize on glycemic markers in adults at increased risk of type 2 diabetes.3 Researchers found that post-treatment insulin resistance was significantly lower for the fortified bagel compared to the control wheat bagel, concluding that consumption of high-amylose resistant starch can “improve glycemic efficacy by reducing the amount of required insulin to manage postprandial glucose while also improving fasting insulin sensitivity,” explains senior manager of nutrition marketing Santiago Vega.
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- LSA Augustin et al., “Glycemic index, glycemic load and glycemic response: an International Scientific Consensus Summit from the International Carbohydrate Quality Consortium (ICQC),” Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, vol. 25, no. 9 (September 2015): 795-815
- BA Gower et al., “Baseline insulin sensitivity affects response to high-amylose maize resistant starch in women: a randomized, controlled trial,” Nutrition & Metabolism, vol. 13, no. 2 (January 2016)
- SA Dainty, “The effect of resistant starch bagels on glycemic response in adults at risk for type 2 diabetes,” Masters of Science thesis, The University of Guelph, Canada. May 4, 2015.
- Sang et al., “Bioactive ginger constituents alleviate protein glycation by trapping methylglyoxal,” Chemical Research in Toxicology, vol. 28, no. 9 (September 2015): 1842-1849
- M Gliozzi et al., “The effect of bergamot polyphenolic fraction in patients with non alcoholic liver steato-hepatitis and metabolic syndrome,” PharmaNutrition. Published online November 26, 2015.
- MC Simon et al., “Intake of Lactobacillus reuteri improves incretin and insulin secretion in glucose-tolerant humans: a proof of concept,” Diabetes Care, vol. 38, no. 10 (October 2015): 1827-1834