The National Institutes of Health estimates more than 6 million Americans have type II diabetes — and many don't even know it. The International Diabetes Federation says the incidence of diabetes has already increased by one-third during the 1990s, due to the prevalence of obesity and an aging population.
With numbers like these, it's little wonder so many food developers are trying to crack the diabetes epidemic.
America's favorite complementary medicine guru, Dr Andrew Weil, advocates four primary nutrients for diabetics. "I am unaware of evidence that any commercially available combination of supplements provides effective control of blood sugar," Weil explains on his website. "However, I do recommend several individual supplements." These include:
- GTF chromium: a trace element that helps transport glucose into cells. (1,000mcg daily)
- Alpha-lipoic acid: An antioxidant that can enhance glucose uptake, inhibit glycosylation (the abnormal attachment of sugar to protein), and help maintain eye and nerve health. (100mg daily)
- Magnesium: To help promote healthy insulin production. (400mg daily)
- Co-Q10: Diabetics are at an increased risk of heart disease, and co-Q10 helps maintain a healthy cardiac function. (60-100mg/day)
- Weil also recommends a few botanicals in standardized extract form: Asian bitter melon (Momordica charantia); ayurvedic gurmar (Gymnema sylvestre); blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus); and prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia genus).
There are two main approaches to creating food for diabetics. One is to use sweetener alternatives, and the other is to incorporate dietary fiber, which can increase bulk, reduce blood-sugar levels and postpone the release of glucose from starch.
One supplier that positioned itself squarely in the "blood-glucose management" market is DSM Food Specialties, which launched the InsuVital ingredient in August 2007. A hydrolyzed casein, it was said to decrease post-meal blood glucose levels by 15 percent. DSM later renamed the ingredient InsuVida, but discontinued it in 2009 because "it wasn't commercially viable based on cost/dose."
Other branded ingredients, however, are still going strong. Salba (Salvia hispanica), a novel grain by Ancient Naturals, is the richest whole food source of omega-3 ALA and fiber. It has almost no carbs and offers 6g of dietary fiber per serving.
OatVantage oat beta-glucan, by GTC Nutrition, has a glycemic response one fifth that of glucose. It increases viscosity of stomach contents, which slows stomach emptying, prolongs the absorption of energy from a meal and decreases fat absorption. These effects exert control over insulin release.
Nutraceutical Group sells a high-viscosity and high-concentration oat beta-glucan soluble fiber called Viscofiber.
Up to 12 times more concentrated than oat bran, Viscofiber improves glycemic response and glucose management. Finally, National Starch sells Hi-Maize resistant starch as a flour substitute. It decreases glycaemic and insulin impact, and increases insulin sensitivity. It also can be used in low-moisture food systems to improve texture and processing properties.
New theories on antioxidants
While the importance of sugars and fibers in the diabetic diet are well understood, new research is shedding light on the importance of other nutrients.
Xtend Sucromalt is a full-calorie, low glycemic sweetener that is ideal for use in foods where a balanced energy or blunt glucose response is desired. Sucromalt has a lower glycemic response than sugar and glucose. It is 70% as sweet as sugar.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Gencor Nutrients Inc.
GENCINIA is an extract of Coccinia Cordifolia that was tested on patients newly diagnosed with Type II diabetes. The study results showed patients experienced improvement in fasting blood glucose levels, post-prandial blood glucose levels and glycosylated haemoglobin levels. See www.Gencinia.com for details.
Anaheim, California, USA
InSea, an optimized blend of polyphenols from natural origin derived from two species of brown seaweeds, is the only product on the market that exhibits a dual mechanism of action against the two digestive enzymes involved in the digestion and assimilation of carbohydrates ingested during a meal (amylase and sucrase).
Rimouski (Quebec), Canada
InterHealth Nutraceuticals, Inc.
Mushroom Wisdom Inc.
National Starch Food Innovation
Hi-maize resistant starch, Hi-maize whole grain corn flour
Salba (Ancient Naturals, LLC)
Salba whole seed, Salba milled seed, Salba seed oil