Thursday, May 27, 2010

Excerpts from an iterview with me about natural sweeteners

A whole leaf, full spectrum extraction of stevia preserves the many phytonutrients naturally present in the plant. One study reported over 100 natural stevia phytonutrients; the majority being polyphenols and other plant antioxidants. By contrast, there are about 9 steviosides. But the new “Reb A” fraction products being sold as food sweeteners (PureVia™, Truvia™) represent only a single chemical isolated from the stevia plant, though these two sweeteners are actually sold with added sugar alcohol (Erythritol, see below) and “natural flavors”.

Some artificial sweeteners cannot be used in cooking; for example, aspartame. By contrast, natural sweeteners typically do not lose their sweetness when cooked. And studies have indicated that artificial sweeteners may backfire by shutting down the satiety signals that tell us when we’re full…in those studies the groups fed artificial sweeteners ate up to 3 times the calories as control groups.

Sugar alcohols don’t raise blood sugar as rapidly as sugar does, yet they’re as bulky as sugar so they can be used “spoon - for - spoon” to replace sugar. But their level of sweetness may vary, with xylitol being the closest to sugar. Sugar alcohols have a range of sweetness and absorption; the amount that is absorbed from the GI tract affects the possibility of it being somewhat laxative at high levels, which can vary from person to person. Sorbitol may be laxative at moderate levels of 10 grams or more, mannitol at over 20 grams; xylitol at over 30 grams. Erythritol is virtually free of a laxative side affect even at higher levels, but is expensive. Also, sugar alcohols tend to have a cooling effect in the mouth and actually taste better when combined with a different type of sweetener.

Sugar alcohols also boast an FDA-approved health claim: “Frequent between-meal consumption of foods high in sugars and starches promotes tooth decay. The sugar alcohols in [name of food] do not promote tooth decay.”

I think that organic maple syrup, agave and xylitol are doing quite well as natural sweeteners, with erythritol a more recent option that is catching up. The recent crossover of a certain isolated fraction of stevia (Reb A) as a mass market sweetener has some drawbacks: it doesn’t taste like whole leaf extract, and is combined with both erythritol and natural flavors. And there are certified organic full spectrum extractions without the typical bitter aftertaste or added flavoring agents.

Many stevia products are still only legal to sell as herbal dietary supplements, not as sweeteners. Some companies may think that all stevia products are now approved for use in foods, but that is not true. Retailers should take their cues from the packaging, and only carry reputable brands that strictly follow labeling laws. It is primarily the isolated “Reb A” fraction of stevia that can be used in foods. Most other stevias have not been approved for food use, with some exceptions.

Excerpts from my interview about nutrition and diabetes

Fasting blood sugar tests are how doctors have long checked patients for blood sugar issues. A person’s options are greatest when they first discover that their blood sugar has gone out of balance. If they wait until after they’re on insulin or other medications, any natural means for improvement in blood sugar control could cause a dose of medicine to become an overdose. It is very important that your physician knows if you are going to try to control your blood sugar naturally, and that you test your blood sugar levels every time before taking medication in order to avoid dangerous interactions.

It normally takes several years to progress to full diabetes, and many people make diet and lifestyle changes that can control their blood sugar and prevent the development of diabetes without the use of drugs. But prolonged pre-diabetes weakens the system, being inflammatory and unsustainable over the long term. Of course, progression to full-blown diabetes is the biggest risk; meaning medications for the rest of your life, circulatory problems that can lead to blindness, neuropathy and amputations, more risks from infections, inflammatory problems, and even premature death. Adjustments to medications are needed and there is the possibility of insulin shock or diabetic comas. Frequent urination, high blood pressure, even the elevated risk of heart attack and stroke are other serious issues that diabetics face.

It’s a positive development that more people address health conditions when they first have indications of a growing problem. This may be partly because of high health care costs, but many people are motivated to improve their health for its own sake.

Metabolic Syndrome is a pre-diabetes condition defined as a combination of three or more of these symptoms: waist circumference over 40” for men and over 38” for women, high blood sugar (defined as a fasting blood glucose level over 100 mg/dL), high triglycerides (over 150 mg/dL), low high-density lipoprotein (HDL, the "good" cholesterol, levels below 40 mm Hg for men and under 50 for women), and hypertension (high blood pressure; the top number (systolic) over 130 and/or the bottom number (diastolic) over 85). Medical treatment for one or more of these symptoms is also considered a risk factor. Metabolic Syndrome increases belly fat and is a step on the path towards developing adult-onset diabetes. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) may be a symptom of yo-yo blood sugar regulation, a loss of control that could develop into pre-diabetes and diabetes.

There are a number of factors, but lifestyle choices are controllable, whereas a genetic predisposition is not. Most gene expression, the way that genetics actually plays out in real life, responds to environmental factors. For the gene itself, nutrients are part of its environment that trigger or suppress specific genetic responses.

Dr. Thomas A. Barringer of Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina reports that his studies show that multiple vitamins benefit our diabetic population. He states that “any population at risk of having marginally inadequate nutrition, such as the elderly in general, might also benefit." Dr Barringer adds: “all obese people might benefit." He pointed out that supplements are safe and relatively inexpensive, so taking a daily multivitamin is "a reasonable option" for people who are overweight, who have any type of diabetes, who may not receive adequate nutrition or whose immune system is weak. (March 4th 2003 Annals of Internal Medicine)

Take a good multiple vitamin with a fat-containing meal in order to absorb the fat soluble nutrients. If you take green foods or other nutritionally dense dietary supplements, take them with a meal to help increase the total nutritional value of that meal.

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a potent antioxidant that reduces insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs from swings in blood sugar from poor diets high in refined carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup) that eventually lead to the hormone Insulin becoming ineffective at moving carbohydrates out of the bloodstream into the cells. ALA has the additional benefit of protecting cells from oxidative damage, including liver cells.

Chromium is available in several forms. While much of the current evidence is on the form called chromium picolinate, other forms may be gentler and more active in controlling cholesterol, such as chromium nicotinate that’s bonded to niacin (Vitamin B-3). This mineral helps us to properly manage blood sugar and is a component of Glucose Tolerance Factor. Chromium may also help maintain lean body mass (muscle) during calorie-restricted dieting.

Citrin® helps to limit the liver's production of fat from carbohydrate.

GlucoFit® is a source of corosolic acid for proper insulin sensitivity to allow sugars to be moved from the bloodstream into cells.

Gymnema sylvestre improves uptake of glucose into cells, may block ability to taste “sweet” and may be useful for maintaining healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels

HCA (-Hydroxycitric acid) is an extract from the fruit rind of Garcinia cambogia may reduce the body’s ability to convert carbohydrates into stored fats.

Stevia extract is a natural herbal product that is non-caloric, may support pancreatic function and promote insulin sensitivity.