Special Edition: Tackling diabetes: Formulating for healthy blood sugar

Focus on energy balance could jumpstart mainstream appeal of resistant starch beyond diabetes

By Maggie Hennessy

- Last updated on GMT

'Energy balance' could jumpstart mainstream appeal of resistant starch
The overall topic of blood sugar management is becoming increasingly important beyond the population with type 2 diabetes, as mainstream media has made consumers more aware of the health needs of blood sugar management—known more colloquially as “energy management” or “energy balance,” said Santiago Vega, senior manager of nutrition marketing at Ingredion, which supplies Hi-Maize resistant starch.

“What’s happened is that for people with diabetes and those who have family affected, the issue of blood sugar management is very near and dear, and they have a clear understanding of it,”​ he told FoodNavigator-USA. But popular media has also latched onto the concept of energy management, with several recent Dr. Oz segments exploring the benefits of resistant starch.

“Among the general population, especially health seekers and active buyers, blood sugar management translates into tangible benefits, such as energy balance, energy management and even weight management. Blood sugar management is the underlying mechanism, but it materializes more around the concept of energy management and balance. Through customer research we’ve done, we see that the general consumer is more aware of the benefits of managing blood sugar.”

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Avoiding peaks and crashes

Several clinical trials have demonstrated the impact of Hi-Maize on improving insulin sensitivity, with research published in 2011 showing a 73% percent improvement in insulin sensitivity with doses of 30 g per day, and 56% improvement on 15 grams a day.

“Not only does Hi-Maize act as a fiber, but has slowly digestible and non-digestible components that help you avoid the peaks and crashes of high-glycemic foods, giving it the unique property of managing glycemic response,”​ Vega said. This concept also resonates with active buyers and health seekers, who are looking for ways to maintain an energy balance throughout the course of the day.

Meeting consumer daypart expectations

Because Hi-Maize is an insoluble fiber, the best applications are low-moisture products, such as healthy baked products, cookies and bars, which are most readily accepted by consumers as  breakfast or healthy snacking options.

“There’s certainly potential among foods and products that specifically target people with diabetes or pre-diabetes, where people have high believability and you can deliver benefits of blood sugar management and energy balance/weight management while also meeting certain eating occasions,”​ Vega said. “Consumers expect certain benefits in certain products to be delivered at certain times of day. The most direct connection with baked goods and bars is with healthy snacks and breakfast occasions.”

Potential in pasta, gluten-free products

Consumers are becoming increasingly verse in differentiating among carbohydrates, and are more open than ever to finding new ways to get nutritional benefits. Ingredion has been successful testing Hi-Maize in applications such as white fiber pasta to reduce its glycemic impact. “It’s a very fine powder, so it works very seamlessly when you replace up to 20% of flour.”

It also helps improve texture, crumb and rising of dough in bread, which means there’s significant potential for gluten-free products. “We’ve had incredible success in gluten-free baked goods, as the ingredient worked wonders in terms of maintaining structure and texture, while also adding the health benefits of blood sugar and energy balance.”

Hi-Maize is priced competitively with most fibers, but Vega added that it brings added value in the form of additional health benefits and functionality.

“We’re really offering staggered or layered benefits, as we continue addressing the obesity and diabetes epidemic while the mainstream awareness of energy management toward blood sugar benefits continues to grow. The concern for blood sugar management is already there. We need to figure out how that translates today and how it will translate five years from now.”

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