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Some Sweeteners Inhibit Enzyme Tied to Type 2 Diabetes

Antioxidants in date sugar, dark brown sugars help control blood pressure, heart disease

FRIDAY, July 25, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Certain kinds of sweeteners -- such as date sugar and dark brown sugars -- may help manage type 2 diabetes and related complications, American and Brazilian researchers say.

"Depending on their origin and grade of refining, many sweeteners contained significant amounts of antioxidants, which have the potential to control diabetes-linked high blood pressure and heart disease," Kalidas Shetty, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in a university new release. "Several types of sweeteners also showed an interesting potential to inhibit the action of a key enzyme related to type 2 diabetes, which is also the target of drugs used to treat this condition."

The researchers analyzed a wide variety of sweeteners and found that date sugar and dark brown sugars contained much higher levels of antioxidants called phenolic compounds than white sugar. Phenolic compounds are the same plant chemicals that give red wine and tea their heart-healthy benefits.

The researchers also found that certain sweeteners inhibit the activity of alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme that moderates blood glucose levels by controlling the passage of sugars from the small intestine.

"Diabetes is characterized by a rapid rise in blood glucose levels after meals. Inhibiting alpha-glucosidase, which is the target of several drugs used to treat diabetes, can help prevent this spike," Shetty said.

These findings were published recently in the Journal of Medicinal Food.

"Replacing sugars in processed foods and beverages with low-calorie and noncaloric sweeteners is one long-term strategy for type 2 diabetes," Shetty said. "But these results indicate that a strategic choice of dietary sweeteners, especially less refined sugars close to the original nature of the ingredients found in whole plants, also has potential in managing type 2 diabetes and related complications. This provides a strong rationale for further animal and clinical studies for better diet design."

More information

The U.S. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse has more about type 2 diabetes.

SOURCE: University of Massachusetts Amherst, news release, July 2008
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