The New Diabetes Formulation Paradigm

The recent trend of developing diabetes-specific products that are mainstream and safe enough for regular consumption could transcend all healthy food and beverage categories.

By Kantha Shelke, Ph.D.

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To GI, or not to GI

The suddenly popular glycemic index (GI) was developed for persons with diabetes to recognize foods that release glucose slowly into the blood stream. The American Diabetes Assn., however, does not favor GI as a consumer tool. Still, controlling the impact of glucose-containing food is important to diabetes management (see "Glycemic Index: What's in a number?," Food Processing, March, 2006).

One way to reduce the glycemic impact of a flour-based formulation is to replace refined flour with a resistant starch such as Hi-Maize, from National Starch Food Innovation (, Bridgewater, N.J. The naturally occurring material delivers health benefits such as calorie reduction, glycemic moderation and increased insulin sensitivity, plus aids digestive health.


The diabetic-friendly, sugar-free food and beverage market is poised to grow 32 percent between 2005 and 2009, according to Chanda Rowan, public relations manager of Mintel International, Chicago. The affected population, which includes all age groups and ethnicities, is growing in number and is forecasted to continue to do so. Increasing consumer desire to revise the diet for weight reduction and improved health is incentive enough for food processors to invest in suitable foods and beverages.

"Resistant starch, although chemically not a fiber, acts like a functional dietary fiber in the gastrointestinal tracts and allows for the advantages of fiber to a food without changing taste, texture or convenience," explains Rhonda Witwer, business development manager of nutrition for National Starch.

Another resistant starch is C*Actistar, developed from tapioca by Cerestar, a division of Cargill. C*Actistar is flavorless and non-GMO. Approximately 53 percent of the compound is resistant to digestion. It also reduces intestinal pH and increases calcium and magnesium absorption. C*Actistar may be labeled on food products as starch.

Labeling resistant starch and including dietary fiber under carbohydrates is a big issue for processors. Standard FDA labeling does not allow it to be labeled as "resistant to digestion" or designated as a prebiotic fiber good for gut health.

Alginate, a widely used hydrocolloid carbohydrate compound derived from seaweed, is now appealing to formulators as a great source of fiber and an ingredient to lower the glycemic impact of a food. Almost any food may be fortified with this seaweed extract because it is versatile and transparent.

Previously, alginates had been considered expensive and use required special expertise. Saatwic Foods Inc. (, Brentwood, Tenn., has developed a patented process to use alginate to cost-effectively reduce the glycemic impact of pasta without deteriorating taste or texture. "Clinical studies show our technology can help regulate starch digestion and give a 40 percent calorie reduction without any safety concerns or digestive abnormalities," claims Saatwic president Ajay Chawan.

Fiber Force

Dietary fiber enhancement is ideal for individuals with type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease. Fiber has multiple positive physiological effects. Adding fiber to formulations adds inert bulk that increases satiety and helps reduce caloric contribution and glycemic impact. Some dietary fibers are prebiotic, aiding gut health.

Sophisticated processing technologies have led to the development of a number of novel dietary fibers. Balantose, from Degussa Food Ingredients, Champaign, Ill., is a natural whole-grain ingredient derived from fermented wheat. It is low in simple sugars but high in soluble and insoluble fibers. Balantose powder is currently used in beverages, dairy and dessert products in Europe.

Orafti Active Food Ingredients, Malvern, Pa., offers Raftilose and Raftiline, fructooligosaccharides (FOS) that can replace dietary fat without significantly affecting mouthfeel and are prebiotics to help improve gut health. They can also substitute for sucrose or glucose in sweet foods such as Stonyfield smoothies.

Inulin is a naturally occurring FOS from chicory roots and artichokes. It is not digested until it reaches the large intestine. Because of its textural capabilities, it can be used as a low-calorie replacement for fat in spreads, baked goods, fillings, dairy products, frozen desserts and dressings.

Dreamfields pasta, manufactured by Dakota Growers Pasta Co., Carrington, N.D., uses a proprietary patented technology to create a matrix of hydrocolloids and inulin that retard the digestive rate of carbohydrate. With clinical data to support its "very low glycemic" claim, the product is suitable for those watching their glucose metabolism as well as for health and fitness reasons.

Another dietary fiber for formulators serving individuals with diabetes is Fibersol-2, a readily dispersible, flavorless dietary fiber derived from corn by Matsutani America, Forsyth, Ill. It is marketed by ADM, Decatur, Ill., as an acid- and heat-stable prebiotic with low viscosity and very high solubility.

Going Bioactive

Bioactive plant components may be the most significant trend in dietary control of diabetes. Scientific inquiry reveals several phytochemicals to be potent blood-glucose regulators. In many cultures, diabetes has been traditionally stabilized via phytonutrients from such natural sources as bitter melon, cinnamon, fenugreek and green tea. Sophisticated processing is making these bioactive phytochemicals viable for processors. Best of all, many consumers are familiar with or curious about these ingredients.

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