Latest research studies and developments for popular blood sugar management ingredients.
One of the most significant health concerns on consumers’ minds is blood sugar. According to FMCG Gurus’ 2019 Global & Regional Active Nutrition Survey of 26,000 respondents, 44% of consumers are aware or very aware of their sugar consumption.1 Excess sugar, the survey found, is more concerning for consumers than fat content and even total calories.
Consumers are cutting back on sugar and are looking for clinically validated ingredients that can help regulate and stabilize their blood sugar levels. Here are some of the most recent studies and innovations in the blood sugar management space.
Increased consumer awareness around the health dangers of added sugar is creating demand for a new generation of sweeteners that can check off multiple boxes. While product taste is still a significant concern, several brands are switching to a new generation of sweetening agents that score low on the glycemic index while also providing other functional benefits.
Beneo (Morris Plains, NJ) says that functional prebiotic fibers such as inulin, derived from chicory root, are ideally suited to act as low-GI sweeteners. Beneo notes that both inulin and oligofructose, a sugar replacer also derived from chicory root, offer a mildly sweet taste but have a lower caloric content than other sugars, producing a smaller glycemic response than traditional sugar. These fibers do not metabolize once inside the body and therefore do not cause a blood sugar spike. Additionally, both of these fibers have the added benefit of improving digestion.
Beneo’s branded Palatinose ingredient, a form of slow-digesting isomaltulose derived from sucrose, is another functional sweetener with a lot to offer the healthy blood sugar space.
A 2017 randomized, double-blind controlled crossover trial2 partially funded by Beneo examined the effects of Palatinose on 20 healthy Chinese men between the ages of 21 and 40. Participants were assigned to either a low-GI diet supplemented with Palatinose (n=10) or a high-GI diet supplemented with sucrose (n=10). All participants wore a glucose monitor for the duration of the trial, with readings occurring once every five minutes for 42 hours. The trial found that Palatinose successfully modulated the glycemic response. The Palatinose group also showed an increase in fat oxidation and carbohydrate oxidation relative to the sucrose group.
Other sweeteners, such as stevia, are also enabling attractive claims. Cargill (Minneapolis, MN) recently added a new stevia sweetener to its portfolio of products. Andy Ohmes, global director of high-intensity sweeteners, says that Cargill’s zero-calorie EverSweet Reb M/Reb D stevia sweetener delivers a more rounded taste profile than other stevia sweeteners, without a licorice aftertaste, enabling it to act as a total sugar replacer.
“This dramatic step forward in sweetener technology enables up to 100% sugar replacement,” Ohmes says. “EverSweet has no calories and no effect on blood glucose levels, making it well-suited for individuals with diabetes.”
Allulose is another sweetening ingredient that is rapidly gaining popularity thanks to its low glycemic index. Kirstie Canene-Adams, PhD, is senior scientist for global nutrition at Tate & Lyle (London) and the author of a recently published Tate & Lyle white paper, “Innovative Ingredients to Address Glycaemic Response.”
Canene-Adams says that there is good clinical evidence that allulose does not raise blood glucose levels or insulin levels in either healthy individuals or people with type 2 diabetes. Tate & Lyle’s branded Dolcia Prima allulose product is also exempt from FDA’s “sugars” and “added sugars” label requirements as a result of an April 2019 FDA decision-adding to its attractiveness to food formulators.
Compounds found in citrus fruits are also showing promise for blood sugar support in various studies. One such compound, eriocitrin, is a glycoside commonly found in lemons that appears to regulate blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity. Rob Brewster, president of Ingredients by Nature (Montclair, CA), says early studies show that his company’s branded eriocitrin ingredient Eriomin can help maintain healthy blood glucose levels via multiple avenues.
“Eriomin is a proprietary blend that supports normal insulin sensitivity, increases antioxidant activity, and manages a healthy inflammation response,” Brewster says. “Our first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study tested three different doses on low- to mid-risk prediabetic individuals and showed that Eriomin was able to successfully address all three areas of focus.”
The results of a follow-up trial3 on Eriomin were published in 2019. The study followed 103 prediabetic patients between the ages of 39 and 59. Participants were divided into four parallel groups and received either 200, 400, or 800 mg of Eriomin per day, or a placebo, for 12 weeks. Participants were assessed for biochemical, metabolic, inflammatory, hepatic, and renal markers of hyperglycemia at baseline and at weeks 4, 8, and 12.
This trial found that supplementation with Eriomin-branded eriocitrin resulted in a 4%-6% decrease in fasting blood glucose after 12 weeks, while subjects in the control group saw a 1% increase in fasting blood glucose levels. Eriocitrin supplementation also caused a 6%-8% reduction in insulin resistance, while the placebo group saw an approximately 1% increase in insulin resistance.
Another promising citrus ingredient with blood sugar benefits is bergamot (Citrus bergamia) extract. HP Ingredients’ (Bradenton, FL) branded bergamot extract complex, Bergamonte, has been shown to reduce concentrations of the hormones ghrelin and leptin and, ultimately, support healthy blood sugar levels. In one HP Ingredients trial whose data was provided to Nutritional Outlook, a 650-mg daily dose of Bergamonte reduced ghrelin levels by 6.9% after 90 days.
Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial4 tracked the effects of another brand-name bergamot polyphenol extract, from Herbal and Antioxidant Derivatives S.r.l. (Bianco, Italy), on fasting glucose and body mass in 52 obese male and female metabolic syndrome patients between 40 and 80 years of age. Participants received either 650 mg (n=17) or 1,300 mg (n=18) of the bergamot extract, or a matching placebo (n=17), per day for 90 days. Forty-five subjects completed the trial. The researchers found that the ingredient improved subjects’ sensitivity to insulin, leptin, and ghrelin; reduced fasting glucose; and induced weight loss in a dose-dependent fashion.
A new study by Italian researchers demonstrated the efficacy of a seaweed extract blend on improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation.
The study5, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial conducted at the University of Pavia in Italy, followed 65 prediabetic Caucasian men and women over the age of 18 who had a fasting plasma glucose level between 100 mg/dL and 126 mg/dL. All participants were given a controlled-energy diet (50% carbohydrates, 30% fat, 20% protein) designed to produce a 600 kcal daily deficit and were instructed to ride a stationary bike in 20-30 minute sessions three to four times per week. Participants also received a supplement containing Innovactiv’s (Rimouski, QC, Canada) branded InSea2 ingredient containing Ascophyllum nodosum, Fucus vesiculosus, and chromium picolinate (n=34), or a matching placebo (n=31), three times per day for six months. Participants were assessed via an oral glucose tolerance test at baseline, at three months, and at six months.
After six months, the experimental group saw a statistically significant reduction in HbA1c, as well as corresponding reductions in fasting glucose and postprandial glucose levels relative to the placebo group. The experimental group also saw statistically significant improvements in measures of insulin sensitivity compared to placebo.
Innovactiv’s executive vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, Jocelyn BÃ©rubÃ©, says this trial demonstrates the long-term efficacy of brown seaweed extract on blood sugar. Perhaps most notably, BÃ©rubÃ© says, the participants in the experimental condition improved their glycemic status, while the control group’s glycemic status deteriorated.
“These results confirm the beneficial impact of using InSea2 over a long time period,” BÃ©rubÃ© says. “Previous studies had shown that a single dose of InSea2 can improve immediate glycemic and insulin responses after a meal, but now, we can see how this improvement in glycemic response accumulates over time.”
Growing Need for Support
Blood sugar support ingredients are showing promising results, with new ingredient research opening up avenues for brands that aim to capitalize on increased consumer awareness around sugar. Sweeteners, citrus ingredients, carb controllers, and other products are quickly gaining a new depth of clinical support thanks to high-quality trials. As more companies invest in research to prove the effects of blood sugar ingredients, and as more consumers look for ways to minimize the impacts of excess sugar on their health, expect this arena to present more opportunities for new brands and new ingredients.
Mulberry Leaves Reduce GI of Carbohydrate
In a randomized, open-label crossover trial6, a mulberry leaf extract reduced the glycemic index of maltose, sucrose, maltodextrin, and glucose in 15 healthy volunteers following carbohydrate intake. The trial found that mulberry leaf extract reduced the GIs of maltose by 53% and sucrose by 33%. This preliminary trial has some important limitations, such as the absence of a placebo group and small sample sizes, but could be a foundation for future research.
Carb Controller Effects Proven in Meta-Analysis
A recent meta-analysis7 showed that Phaseolus vulgaris L. extract is an effective weight-loss supplement that blocks the absorption of carbohydrates. The meta-analysis, performed on 14 studies involving Ashland’s (Wilmington, DE) branded Phase 2 white bean extract, found that Phase 2 has a statistically significant effect on both total body weight loss and fat loss.
Chromium Ingredients Boost Sugar Metabolism
Materials provided to Nutritional Outlook by Nutrition 21 (Purchase, NY) demonstrate that the company’s Chromax brand of chromium picolinate improves both blood sugar metabolism and carbohydrate metabolism, while simultaneously improving insulin sensitivity. One 2018 literature review8 concluded that chromium picolinate also assists with weight loss while preserving lean body mass.
Another randomized placebo-controlled trial9 on Lonza’s (Basel, Switzerland) own chromium ingredient, ChromeMate, found that chromium improved markers of oxidative stress in diabetics.