This doesn’t mean we should ditch this advice and pop pills instead, he stresses, merely that we have to explore other approaches, given that millions of Americans already have type 2 diabetes and 79m* more are at high risk of developing it.
But how can the food/supplement industry help? And given that a dietary solution to this problem would appear to have such massive potential, why isn’t the ‘healthy blood glucose’ market on fire?
Lots of reasons, says Steil, one being that there are surprisingly few ingredients out there. Marketers have also struggled to communicate the benefits without getting too ‘medical’.
But Steil, who is promoting a novel seaweed-based ingredient called InSea² on behalf of its Canadian owner InnoVactiv, says the ‘healthy blood sugar’ message is now starting to gain traction following NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s crackdown on super-size drinks, HBO’s ‘Weight of the Nation’ and the 60 Minutes ‘toxic sugar’ episode.
“The challenge is hidden sugars” he says. “We know a Big Gulp has a ton of sugar, but how many people realize how much sugar is also in a breakfast of yogurt, cranberry juice and wheat bread?”
Wild seaweed enters the fray as blood glucose control market heats up
InSea² is made from a blend of polyphenol-rich wild crafted brown seaweeds harvested in Nova Scotia –Ascophyllum nodosum and Fucus vesiculosus - and is claimed to inhibit the activity of two enzymes associated with starch and sugar metabolism, thereby reducing the spikes in blood glucose we get after a meal.
This effectively slows down the carbohydrate digestion process by inhibiting alpha-amylase (which breaks down starch) and sucrase (which breaks down sucrose), says Steil.
Animal and human trials show it also reduces peak insulin levels and increases insulin sensitivity, and has potential in the weight management market as well (although more data is needed to prove this), he says.
People don’t necessarily realize they have high blood sugar
InSea² is doing particularly well in the health practitioner supplement market, and is slowly gaining a foothold in the retail market after launches with brands including Life Extension (Natural Glucose Absorption Control) and Nature’s Plus (Sugar Armor), says Steil. “We quadrupled our account base last year.”
However, the blood glucose control category is still in its infancy, he acknowledges.
“One of the challenges is that people don’t necessarily know they have high blood sugar.”
It’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card
The best time to take InSea² capsules is 15-30 minutes before your two largest meals of the day, he says.
But is popping pills before every sugar rush really a sustainable approach to tackling Metabolic Syndrome?
“It’s not a get out of jail free card or a substitute for following a better diet and lifestyle”, says Steil. “It’s just another tool in the toolbox.”
The two seaweed varieties in InSea² are on industry lists of dietary ingredients marketed in the US before 1994, and do not therefore require a new dietary ingredient (NDI) notification, says Steil.
Meanwhile, securing self-affirmed GRAS for InSea² is on the ‘to do’ list, says Steil. However, the current focus is on supplements.
While there has been a recent flurry of new products claiming to help control blood sugar (notably Emulin from ATM Metabolics and NM504 from NuMe Health, plus new research on resistant starch, chromium, crowberry and polyphenol-enriched soybean flour) InSea² is unusual in that it tackles starch and sugar breakdown, claims Steil.
“It’s more effective than [white kidney bean-based ‘carb-blocker] Phase 2 at inhibiting alpha-amylase and it also affects sucrase.”
The first published human clinical trial on InSea² was completed in 2009. Healthy volunteers were given a test food 30 minutes after taking 500mg of InSea². Blood glucose and insulin levels were then measured for three hours after the meal.
The results show a 48.3% reduction in blood glucose incremental area under the curve (iAUC) following the ingestion of white bread in volunteers using InSea² while initial insulin secretion was reduced by 22% in the first 30 minutes after ingestion, combined with a 12.1% reduction in the insulin iAUC and a 7.9% increase in the Cederholm Index of insulin sensitivity.
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*According to the American Diabetes Association.