Diabetes fighters steady as economy falls

Dietary interventions to control blood-glucose levels are important because high blood glucose causes more deaths in the United States than high LDL cholesterol, high dietary salt, low dietary omega-3 fatty acids or high dietary trans-fatty acids, according to a recent analysis focused on identifying modifiable factors responsible for premature or preventable deaths. High blood sugar costs about $174 billion annually in direct and indirect costs — that's double the currently debated health-care reform annual cost in America.

The top ingredients include fibre, B vitamins, magnesium and chromium, according to Nutrition Business Journal.

Problem is, sales for these ingredients are all steady, as are sales for the anti-diabetes drugs such as Glucophage. The consumer choice is clear: drugs or diet. About one third of diabetics take supplements. That leaves room to grow for innovative functional-foods companies that can successfully market their foods to consumers in a way that makes a difference.

A September 2009 study found that consuming a Mediterranean-style diet — rich in vegetables, fruits and nuts, olive oils and legumes — is more effective for diabetes control than a low-fat diet. The Med diet also obviated the need for diabetics to get on the pharmaceuticals.

On the food-ingredients front, resistant starch is a potential candidate. It is a food-grade ingredient that has been shown in numerous clinical studies to increase insulin sensitivity in individuals with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. When resistant starch replaces flour in foods, the glycaemic response and the insulin response of that food goes down. It is a simple starch that, as its name suggests, resists digestion and reaches the large intestine. It easily replaces flour in recipes and food formulations, and can replace up to 20 per cent of the flour in baked goods. Most formulations require little adjustment, except for the addition of a little more water and the addition of vital wheat gluten in bread and pasta.

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