Tate & Lyle explores the relationship between nutritious ingredients and the glycemic response

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / kgtoh
© Getty Images / kgtoh

Related tags: Diabetes, Fiber

Functional food and dietary supplement manufacturers have different options when it comes to using nutritious ingredients to address the worldwide diabetes epidemic, according to Tate & Lyle.

A recent whitepaper by the ingredient supplier provides advice and recommendations on how manufacturers can develop products that enable consumers to have better awareness and control over their blood glucose, while also following a nutritious daily diet that meets guidelines. 

Ingredient tools, such as fibers and sweeteners, that consider the glycemic response, are currently available to developers and producers to assess and implement in their food and beverage designs.

Understanding the prevalence of diabetes in our society, dietary intervention and the role manufacturers can play in developing beneficial products is vital, Tate & Lyle states. Ingredients then become the natural next area to analyze as they play a crucial part in the “enjoyment, taste, and health”​, of foods and beverages.

Diabetes affects more than 425 million people around the world, International Diabetes Federation states​, and this number is expected to reach to 629 million by 2045. Of those adults that are thought to live with diabetes, 50% are undiagnosed.

With increasing concerns over the high incidence of diabetes and metabolic syndrome, Dr Kavita Karnik, VP Global Nutrition at Tate & Lyle, confirms that providing information on managing blood glucose with healthy options is at the forefront of nutrition: “We believe people should be able to make healthy food and drink choices by having access to low calorie, low sugar and high fiber options.”

Measuring the glycemic response

Understanding blood glucose changes, otherwise known as the glycemic response, is crucial to support awareness on the importance of managing blood glucose, the role of dietary interventions and specific ingredients that can help people living with diabetes.

Glycemic response (GR) is defined as the post-prandial blood glucose response, which is caused when a person consumes a food that contains carbohydrates. It also considers the change in blood glucose concentration over time.

The World Health Organization (WHO) details diabetes as a chronic metabolic illness with heightened levels of blood glucose. If left untreated, the presence of elevated blood glucose can impair the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.

Diabetes rates

There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce any or sufficient amounts of the hormone insulin. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition where the body does not respond to insulin which subsequently affects glucose metabolism.

“Type 2 diabetes is a complex health condition, the risk of which is increased by a range of factors, including excessive intake of ingredients in our diets such as fat, sugar and calories. We know however that eating a healthier diet and exercising regularly are among the most important things people can do to reduce their personal risk,”​ expressed Renata Cassar, Nutrition Manager - Latin America, Tate & Lyle.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, 80% of Type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented by taking proactive steps to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

At present, the highest rates of diabetes globally are in the Caribbean and North America, where 11% of the population lives with diabetes. South and Central America have global incidence rates of 7.6% compared with 4.2% of the African region.

Adopting the same method applied using the Latin America Finnish Diabetes Risk Score (LA-FINDRISC) for different Hispanic/Latino populations, each population will need to identify the most significant risk factors for each group of interest.

Manufacturing practices

Latin American and US manufacturers are taking a number of specific measures to address the diabetes epidemic, namely nutrition surveys, which “show that many of us are consuming too much sugar and calories in particular”,​ Cassar noted.

 “Food manufacturers understand that they can play an important role in helping to reduce rates of diabetes across the world – including in the US and Latin America – by helping people to balance their diets by reducing intake of sugar and calories,” ​added Cassar.

Tate & Lyle has found in its research that 66% of Mexican consumers, for example, want to eat less sugar.

“But focusing on only one ingredient isn’t helpful and we need to work towards healthier overall diets,”​ Cassar emphasized. Therefore, the industry needs to reformulate food and drinks to reduce sugar, fat and overall calories and increase key nutrients like fibers, while maintaining taste and nutritional balance.

Nutrition considerations

Fibers and foods that are high in soluble fires from oats, fruits, and legumes and specific dietary fibers such as beta-glucan, pectin, psyllium, polydextrose and soluble corn fiber have been found to lower the rise in blood glucose levels after eating a meal, for both people with and without diabetes.

Nutritive sweeteners, such as sucrose (table sugar) or fructose (the sugars found in fruits), are sweeteners that contribute to overall calorie intake. NNS, or non-nutritive sweeteners, on the other hand, are ingredients that can be used to sweeten food and drinks without adding calories — or only adding negligible calories  — to our diets. Sucralose, stevia and monk fruit extract are all examples of these.

NNS use, or dietary components that sweeten with minimal or no carbohydrate or energy, was analyzed in an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics​ position paper. Its findings reveal that “consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and NNS when consumed within an eating plan that is guided by current nutrition recommendations as well as individual health goals and personal preferences.”

The wider regulatory environment

Commenting on whether the regulatory and political landscape is supporting the efforts of manufacturers, Cassar shared: “Sometimes it’s difficult for regulation to keep up with innovation. Other times, the regulators are the ones forcing the innovation. On occasion, we see that technology is enabling innovation that doesn’t always fit into the established ways of assessing and approving ingredients and health claims.”

Consumers understand the health benefits associated with consuming less sugar and fewer calories, and as such, healthier options are growing in popularity, Cassar relayed. Sharing insights on what is currently shaping the landscape, Cassar said: “Governments across the world are now introducing policies that encourage manufacturers to reformulate their products.​”

Considering what more needs to be done, “ingredient companies and food and beverage companies need to do a better job of working with academic institutions to effectively communicate these innovations and educate the key stakeholders involved in the food production chain,”​ Cassar highlighted.

Food industry collaboration

To tackle the diabetes epidemic, Cassar states that it is also crucial to understand that “no single government, industry or regulator can tackle diabetes on its own”​.

Government authorities, regulators, policymakers, academic institutions and manufacturers of food, drink and ingredients need to work together, as collectively they are “vital in encouraging innovation and bring more healthy options to markets as quickly as possible”​.

Tate & Lyle, for example, is a lead supporter in the Singaporean government’s ‘War on diabetes’, which helps local businesses to help make their recipes healthier.

“As busy people, with limited time to prepare our own meals, we are more reliant on prepared and packaged foods and drinks that we consume in and out of the home,” ​said Cassar. “It is therefore incumbent on players in the food industry to play their part in making these foods healthier.”

Introducing texturants to lower fat, and introducing low-calorie sweeteners and fiber to lower sugar and fat, manufacturers are able to reduce calories and help customers support weight management, Tate & Lyle explained. Fibers and low-calorie sweeteners have the added benefit of supporting better blood glucose control.

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