We know that eating too much sugar is not good. That’s something we all have known pretty much all our lives. But why? Why are we concerned about high levels of sugar in our bodies—specifically in our blood?
Glucose is precious fuel for our bodies—it’s something we need to give us energy. But too much of it can be dangerous. High sugar levels slowly erode the ability of cells in the pancreas to make insulin, which is what the body uses to metabolize carbohydrates and fats in the body. Over time, the pancreas is permanently damaged, we end up with diabetes, and have to take insulin to do the job our body no longer has the ability to perform.
Nobody wants to be diabetic. It’s a dangerous condition that can cause a lot more complications than most of us want to deal with, such as kidney disease, strokes, heart problems, blindness, immune system suppression, erectile dysfunction, poor circulation, neuropathy.
Of the different components of nutrition—carbohydrates, fats, and proteins—carbohydrates have the greatest influence on blood sugar levels. Keeping sugar levels closer to normal can prevent many of the complications of diabetes. But it’s pretty hard to totally eliminate all sugar from our diets—it’s in almost everything. But it is always good to try to keep our sugar intake down. There are also dangers in using artificial sweeteners. And they don’t always do the trick, anyway.
To keep blood sugar levels in check, we need to make healthy food choices and exercise regularly. One way to control our carbohydrate (especially sugar) intake is to utilize the glycemic index, a ranking that attempts to measure the influence that each particular food has on blood sugar levels. It takes into account the type of carbohydrates in a meal and its effect on blood sugar. Foods that are low on the glycemic index appear to have less of an impact on blood sugar levels. High glycemic index foods generally make blood sugar levels higher.
People who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes need to be especially careful about the amount of total carbohydrates they take in every day. So it’s a good idea to count your carbs. Get a book that gives you the nutritional content of foods (some will even list popular restaurant meals, or you can sometimes find those online). You will see the fat, protein and carbohydrate content listed and can make healthy selections to not only keep your carbs low, but your fats low, too (unless you’re one of those lucky ones who can eat and eat and not gain an ounce). A good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to under 200 grams of carbohydrates per day. And if most of those can be complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables), so much the better. The body digests complex carbs slowly, so they provide a steadier source of energy.
In 2004, Matt Leonhardt began research work for his Masters thesis on functional foods at Utah State University. Using fructans and xylitol (a natural, low-calorie sugar) furnished by Life Energy Foods LLC, he tested two groups of human subjects eating xylitol alone and eating fructans with xylitol.
Leonhardt’s thesis concluded that fructans are non-digestible and not directly involved in human metabolism; however, they do provide needed energy for daily activity. He specifies that using fructans in the diet has been associated with several benefits. One benefit is maintaining blood glucose levels. This may be due to fructan being a fiber that is not digested in the upper GI tract, so is not absorbed into the blood stream to have an effect on blood glucose and insulin levels as other carbohydrates do.
Fructans are prebiotics, and are a great health benefit by supporting the probiotic bacteria in the gut (See Pre-Probiotics).
Leonhardt found that when his subjects took xylitol alone, slight diarrhea was produced during the first week and significant diarrhea the second week. However, when fructans were added, the subjects experienced slight constipation during the first week, with the bowels returning to normal during the second week, with no diarrhea or constipation effects.
Our prebiotic sweetener Vim® is made with xylitol and fructans. Frē® is made with the natural non-caloric sugar erythritol and fructans.
So, one way in which we can lower our sugar intake is to switch to Frē® or Vim® instead of sugar as a sweetening agent. Sprinkle it on cereal for breakfast in the morning or use Vim® to replace sugar in a recipe (it is an equal exchange, teaspoon for teaspoon, cup for cup).
Common table sugar has 4 grams of carbohydrates per teaspoon, for a total of about 17 calories, with a Glycemic Index of 68 (anything over 55 is high). Frē® has 3 grams, but those 3 grams come from erythritol, a natural non-caloric sugar found in grapes, pears and watermelon (2 grams) and soluble dietary fibers (1 gram), so has no calories, has a Zero Glycemic Index and requires no insulin to digest. Vim® has a total carb count of 4 grams, with 3 grams coming from the low-calorie prebiotic sweetener xylitol (found in plums, strawberries, and raspberries) and 1 gram from soluble dietary fibers, for a total of 8 calories, less than half the calories of sugar, with a Glycemic Index of 5, and requires very little insulin to digest.
Both of these products, therefore, help support a diabetic diet or help avoid diabetes, high blood sugar and low blood sugar.