Special edition: Blood Sugar Management

Soluble fibers show promise as blood sugar management ingredients

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Guar plant. Taiyo International photo
Guar plant. Taiyo International photo
Soluble fibers can have significant effects on post prandial blood glucose spikes, but they have their effects in the gut rather than in the blood stream itself as polyphenolic ingredients might do.

Purified, soluble fibers such as those derived from guar gum and chicory root have data behind them backing this effect.  Two suppliers, Taiyo International and Cargill, spoke with NutraIngredients-USA about the use of fibers in connection with this health indication.

Research on ingredient

Taiyo has built up an extensive suite of research backing its Sunfiber soluble fiber ingredient, which is a proprietary form of partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG).  Scott Smith, vice president of Taiyo International, said in the past the ingredient has been studied for its effects on maintaining health cholesterol levels, regularity (both constipation and diarrhea), ameliorating IBS symptoms, promoting satiety and aiding in appetite control and others.

In a study published in mid 2016 in the Journal of Functional Foods​, a team led by Dr Mahendra Kapoor looked at the ingredient’s effects on metabolic syndrome, specifically among subjects who were already showing signs of glucose intolerance.  The results came from an observational study conducted on 12 middle-aged Japanese subjects who ranged from slightly overweight to significantly overweight (BMI ranging from about 25.5 to about 29.5).  The subjects consumed 6 grams of Sunfiber with three meals a day for three months, when effects were measured. They were not asked to modify their diets, exercise habits or general lifestyle. They continued on the regimen for a total of 12 months to confirm the results.

Kapoor and his team found that Sunfiber used in this way resulted in:

   •     Significantly reduced postprandial blood glucose levels of up to 50%

   •     Significantly reduced postprandial insulin and triglyceride levels

   •     Lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels

   •     Reduced inflammatory markers including C-reactive protein

   •     Significantly reduced body mass index, particularly measurable in waist circumference. 

Sunfibers response to glucose uptake has been observed and reported in different geographical areas, including Japan, SEA and Europe. It has been shown to have this effect with both rice and wheat (bread) based diets, and has been shown to be suitable for both Asian and Western diets,​ Dr Kapoor told NutraIngredients-USA.

Benefits of inulin

Cargill, which supplies a range of inulin ingredients sourced from chicory root, said that beyond their gut health benefits the ingredients have shown blood sugar management benefits as well.

A European health claim was recently approved for blood glucose response for Cargills inulin,​ Patricia Williamson, principal scientist in Cargill’s scientific and regulatory group said. Whenever you can substitute a non digestible carbohydrate or a low digestible carbohydrate in place of a highly available carbohydrate you will see a benefit.

“What’s really unique is there is a family of benefits beyond just glycemic response, such as gut health and mineral absorption,” ​she said.

Inulin, like some other purified fibers, are currently in regulatory limbo because of a new guidance from FDA on the definition of fiber.  FDA accepted some isolated fibers, such as guar gum, at face value, whereas it was to seem more information about others. Manufacturers like Cargill must submit dossiers to show FDA that their ingredients have the physiological benefits associated with fiber and therefore can be labeled as such. 

Our petition encompasses the body of research on inulin as fiber.  We are really promoting chicory root inulin as one of the most researched fibers. One reason why is chicory root fiber was the first fructan fiber to come to market,​ said Taylor Halstead, product line manager for Cargill’s specialty carbohydrates.

Mechanism of action

The mechanism by which these fiber ingredients damp down blood sugar spikes is similar.  It’s part chemical, part ‘mechanical,’ if such a word can be used in this context.  Changing the physical arrangement of the digesting food bolus in the gut changes how nutrients are absorbed.

The mechanisms behind the reported effects of Sunfiber on metabolic health has been shown to be a result of changes in intestinal viscosity, nutrient absorption, the rate of passage, production of short chain fatty acids and production of gut hormones. Sunfiber has been shown to result in a decreased blood glucose excursion and attenuated insulin responses. Sunfiber enlarges in the GI and forms a viscous material which slows intestinal transit time and demonstrates a delayed gastric emptying, resulting in lower postprandial blood glucose and insulin levels,​ Dr Kapoor said.

Cargill makes similar statements about inulin.  It’s promotion of nutrient absorption could even help extend the ingredient into health categories beyond gut health and blood sugar management, Williamson said.

In the effect of inulin on mineral absorption, there is a good history of data on this effect.  It could even benefit bone health with improved absorption of calcium,​ she said.

NIU's Blood Sugar Management Forum

Barry Ritz, PhD, VP of scientific and regulatory affairs at Atrium Innovations, attorneys Justin Prochnow and Ivan Wasserman, as well as Nielsen's Health & Wellness expert Andrew Mandzy will discuss the opportunities and challenges in the sector at the NutraIngredients-USA Blood Sugar Management Forum on February 23. For more information and to register for this FREE event, please click HERE.

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