Artificial Sweeteners Assist in Diabetes Control

January 24th, 2011

sugar cubes

Historically, diabetics have been warned to avoid eating sugar, an almost impossible challenge for those with a sweet tooth. Nowadays, the emphasis has shifted to eating complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, and limiting total carbohydrate intake - known as an insulin resistance diet. Diabetics can indulge in the odd sugary treat, but do need to limit their sugar intake more than non-diabetics (especially those who are struggling with diabetes control). Artificial sweeteners provide a convenient way of doing that.

Natural sugars like fructose, honey, corn syrup, molasses, brown sugar, and cane sugar, are simple carbohydrates that quickly raise your blood sugar levels. Reduced calorie sweeteners like sorbital, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol and xylitol are sugar alcohols often used in sugar-free candy, gum and baked goods. They are also a type of carbohydrate and may raise your blood sugar, although not as much as natural sugars. Low calorie sweeteners are artificial sweeteners created in a lab. They don't contain calories, are low or no carb, and do not affect blood glucose levels.

Artificial sweeteners have gotten a bad rap for being "non-natural" and unpleasant tasting over the years, but today's new and improved sweeteners can be a godsend for diabetics who crave sweets. The FDA and the American Diabetes Association both recommend the following low calorie artificial sweeteners as safe for use by non-insulin dependent and insulin dependent diabetics:

1) Aspartame -sold as NutraSweet and Equal. Aspartame may lose some sweetness at high temperatures. It's 160 to 220 times sweeter than sugar. People with a genetic condition called phenylketonuria can't metabolize aspartame.

2) Acesulfame potassium (acesulfame-K) - also known as Sweet One and Sunett. It's 200 times sweeter than sugar. Ace-K is often mixed with other sweeteners to mask its slightly bitter taste, especially in soft drinks. Can be used for cooking and baking.

3) Saccharin - an old stand by, marketed as Sweet N Low and Sugar Twin. Has a slightly bitter aftertaste. Can be used in both hot and cold foods. It's 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.

4) Sucralose - this increasingly popular sweetener is a relative newcomer to the market, sold as Splenda. It's 600 times sweeter than sugar. It can be used in cooking and baking, and is being added to a growing number of processed foods.

5) Neotame - a high intensity sweetener made by Nutrasweet. Chemically similar to aspartame, it's an incredible 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar. Unlike aspartame, it can be used for baking. Also unlike aspartame, it's safe for use by people with phenylketonuria. Neotame is popular with food manufacturers because the low quantities needed to add sweetness cut production costs.

In addition, Stevia, an all natural sweetener derived from a South American shrub, is being extoled as the sweetener of choice for diabetics. Stevia has no calories, and a zero glycemic index. It's up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, so a little bit goes a long way. Renowned alternative health guru Dr. Andrew Weil writes, "The only non-caloric sweetener I recommend is stevia. It's safe for diabetics and widely used as a sweetener around the world."

Of particular interest to diabetics, stevia has long been considered a therapeutic herb for hyperglycemia, stimulating the release of insulin and enhancing glucose tolerance. It is used as an inexpensive diabetic medication in South America. Interestingly, although it's been shown to lower blood sugar in diabetics, particularly type 2 diabetics, it does not lower blood sugar in people without the condition. Because of it's affect on blood sugar, it is recommended that diabetics test their blood glucose regularly when they first introduce stevia to their diet. They may need to adjust their diabetes medication - some stevia users insist the herb reduced or eliminated their need for insulin therapy. As an added bonus for diabetics with hypertension, stevia is also known to lower high blood pressure.

Super Long Acting Insulin Developed in India

January 25th, 2011

man with syringe
Scientists from India's National Immunology Institute (NII) have developed a new long-acting insulin that can control blood sugar in animals for up to 120 days with a single insulin injection. In contrast, the most effective long-acting insulin on the market today is only effective for a maximum of 18 hours.

The new diabetes medication, dubbed supramolecular insulin assembly-II, or SIA-II, is a "prodrug - a drug administered in an inactive form that becomes active after being administered. Prodrugs are generally better absorbed, distributed, and metabolized than active drugs.

Both bovine and human insulin versions of SIA-II are faring well in animal testing, and the researchers have every expectation that they will perform equally well in clinical trials in humans. "Personally speaking, SIA-II can straight away go to human trials," says NII Director Professor Avadhesha Surolia, "It is pretty safe, as we have not modified the insulin, nor is any addictive used."

The insulin's long lasting effects are due to a unique process called protein folding, in which bovine or human insulin is altered or "misfolded" to form a supramolecule which is protected from the body's enzymatic action. This protection allows the molecules to be stored in the body and be slowly released over long periods of time.

The NII team has been working on the patented SIA-II technology for two years, and recently entered into what Surolia calls "one of the biggest licensing deals from any academic institution in India", licensing the technology to Life Science Pharmaceuticals from Connecticut. A subsidiary of Life Science, Extended Delivery Pharmaceuticals, will be continuing trials of the new diabetic medication.

Experts speculate that the superlative long-term blood glucose control achieved with the use of the novel diabetes medication may indicate some level of recovery of the insulin producing cells in the pancreas that normally stop functioning in insulin dependent or type 1 diabetes.

There is some debate as to whether the super long-acting insulin will be of more benefit to type 1 or type 2 diabetics. India, dubbed "the diabetes capital of the world", has over 50 million diabetics, most of them type 2. Some Indians are paying an average one-quarter of their family income for their current diabetic medication. "Our motivation was to reduce the burden of diabetes," says Surolia, "It doesn't matter whether it's type 1 or 2."

FDA: Long-Term Use of Actos May Be Associated With Bladder Cancer

June 17th, 2011

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is informing the public that use of the diabetes medication Actos (pioglitazone) for more than one year may be associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer. Information about this risk will be added to the Warnings and Precautions section of the label for pioglitazone-containing medicines. The patient Medication Guide for these medicines will also be revised to include information on the risk of bladder cancer.

This safety information is based on FDA's review of data from a planned five-year interim analysis of an ongoing, ten-year epidemiological study1, described in FDA's September 2010 ongoing safety review and in the Data Summary. The five-year results showed that although there was no overall increased risk of bladder cancer with pioglitazone use, an increased risk of bladder cancer was noted among patients with the longest exposure to pioglitazone, and in those exposed to the highest cumulative dose of pioglitazone.

To read the Safety Announcement on the FDA website, >CLICK HERE.<