Some Natural Sweeteners and Fiber Can Mute Glycemic Response To High Carbohydrate Foods Interview with:
Margaret A. Brennan
Department of Wine, Food and Molecular Biosciences
Lincoln University
Lincoln, Canterbury, New Zealand What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: There has been immense consumer attention recently in terms of the reduction of sugar levels in food products. Most of this attention has stemmed from a nutritional understanding that foods high in sugar and easily digested carbohydrates can increase blood glucose levels and hence potentially lead to weight gain, obesity issues, metabolic diseases (diabetes related illnesses) and even Alzheimer’s disease due to up regulation of genes responsible for amyloid like complexation.

Our research over the last 10-15 years has tried to investigate the relationship between food composition – food structure / processing – human nutrition. We have developed a deep understanding of how we can regulate the potential glycaemic index of foods by selective use of non-starch polysaccharides, natural sweeteners and texturizing agents to manipulate the rate of starch and carbohydrate digestion.

This study clearly illustrates the great potential of the use of certain natural sweeteners in producing reduced sugar consumer products which have the benefit of reducing glycaemic response in individuals. The utilisation of plant based ingredients to manipulate such a a response offers not only the industry but consumers a powerful opportunity to regulate glycaemia and hence associated metabolic orders.

The study also illustrates that sugar is important in modern foods in providing the structure and hence textural characteristics we have grown accustomed to as consumers. Again careful selection of ingredients can minimise any potential negative effects on food structure and texture that sugar reduction may have. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Traditional cereal products such as muffins, cakes, breakfast cereals… all generally contain high levels of added sugar. This sugar is not only used for the sweetness of products but also for advantages in terms of product textural and sensory characteristics. Whilst sugar in itself may not be harmful to individuals, the modern western diet contains large numbers of food items which contain high amounts of added sugar. This has an effect on human nutrition and consumer welfare. The food industry needs to take this into account and produce a greater range of sugar free or substantially reduced sugar products. Recent consumer interests in sugar taxes and the like highlight this. We have the possibility of using natural sweeteners and dietary fibre components to mimic sugar in cereal foods and reduce the potential glycaemic response individuals have on eating such foods. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: There is a growing connection between sugar consumption, lack of glycaemic control, weight gain , diabetes and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. More research is required in terms of understanding the link between food structure and potential carbohydrates (and other food components) digestion and Alzheimer’s control. A previous paper of ours illustrated the potential protective effect of certain commonly consumed oils, likewise selection of certain dietary fibre components and natural sweeteners – sugar replacers may have a huge potential in regulating the overall affect sugar plays on these neurological diseases. Our work continues to explore this but greater attention needs to focus on this area. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Gao, J., Brennan, M. A., Mason, S. L. and Brennan, C. S. (2016), Effect of sugar replacement with stevianna and inulin on the texture and predictive glycaemic response of muffins. International Journal of Food Science & Technology. doi: 10.1111/ijfs.13143

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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