Polyphenols for blood sugar management: ‘Sometimes you need to anchor the novel ingredient with the time-tested,’ says expert

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock/udra
Photo: iStock/udra

Related tags Blood sugar Insulin Antioxidant Insulin resistance

A combination of strawberry and cranberry polyphenols may improve insulin sensitivity in overweight and non-diabetic, insulin-resistant adults, according to a new study. 

“This was a parallel, double-blind, placebo-controlled and randomized clinical trial of 41 overweight and insulin-resistant subjects,”​ Barry Ritz, PhD, VP of scientific and regulatory affairs at Atrium Innovations, a collaborator of the study, told NutraIngredients-USA.

Though Dr Ritz wasn’t able to elaborate more on the study just yet—it’s still in press—the new study is one of many that Atrium Innovations​ conducts as part of its Polyphenols Project, a collaboration between the company and academic partners, which aims to not only help develop new products but also increase our understanding of how polyphenols work.

This current study was led by Helene Jacques and colleagues at the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods at Laval University, Quebec City, Canada. Participants in the experimental group consumed a proprietary blend of strawberry and cranberry polyphenols daily for six weeks, and the researchers found that these polyphenols improved insulin sensitivity in these overweight and obese non-diabetic, insulin-resistant men and women.

‘So much more to polyphenols beyond antioxidant activity in terms of potential clinical benefits’

Canadian-headquartered Atrium Innovations, which manufactures supplements sold through healthcare practitioners, kicked off its research initiative on inflammation and metabolic syndrome in 2011, when it invested $5 million in the project​.

Within this initiative, a lot of emphasis is put on polyphenols—compounds found in many fruits and vegetables, especially in berries.

Barry Ritz, VP of scientific and regulatory affairs, Atrium Innovations

“Polyphenols is one of the larger areas of study within our applied clinical research program on metabolic health,”​ Ritz said. “Polyphenols are well known historically as antioxidants but there’s so much more to polyphenols beyond antioxidant activity in terms of potential clinical benefits.”

Atrium’s Polyphenol Projects look for synergistic blends of polyphenols to target different outcomes in multiple areas, including glucose management and insulin sensitivity, cognitive function, and endothelial function/vascular health.

Formulating polyphenols for blood sugar management

The mechanism of action of how polyphenols may help regulate blood sugar is still murky, but there has been a growing body of solid research backing their benefit​.

“There is some nice epidemiological data on the relationship between higher dietary anthocyanins intake and lower fasting insulin levels and lower insulin resistance,”​ said Dr Ritz. “But that epidemiological data is all on food, anthocyanins taken in in the form of the red and purple pigments you see in fruits like berries and red apples.”

Sources of polyphenols that have been studied and may assist in managing blood sugar levels include red wine​, coffee​, dried fruits with green tea​, blue maize​, fenugreek​, and blueberries​.

But with this abundance of emerging evidence, what can manufacturers do? “From my perspective, people don’t necessarily know polyphenols are for blood sugar management,” ​Ritz said. “We have a large clinical trial [using] strawberry extract and we’re announcing it—but who’s running out to buy strawberry for blood sugar?”

He added: “What we can do from a formulation perspective, sometimes you need to anchor the innovative ingredient with the time-tested. So you take the alpha lipoic and chromium and things like that, and then you formulate with really innovative, interesting ingredients that could be the time-tested of the future.”

Barry Ritz is a panelist on our upcoming Blood Sugar Management FREE online forum

Are you interested to learn more about the cranberry + strawberry polyphenol study mentioned above? Dr Barry Ritz will be speaking on our upcoming Blood Sugar Management forum on the latest ingredient studies, as well as on how to design studies that can help manufacturers with their substantiation claims. He will be joined by attorneys Justin Prochnow and Ivan Wasserman, as well as Nielsen's Health & Wellness expert Andrew Mandzy. Click HERE​ to register.


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