Life Extension Magazine 2011
Effective Approaches to Blunt Blood Sugar Surges
By Judith Sherman
Life Extension® members have received quite an education about creative methods to suppress excess blood glucose.
The prescription drug acarbose taken before carbohydrate-rich meals suppresses glucosidase and other enzymes involved in the breakdown and rapid absorption of sugar calories. Acarbose was long ago approved to treat diabetes, but is underutilized by most treating physicians.
Fortunately, chlorogenic acid found in green coffee bean extract also suppresses glucosidase activity, and it can help blunt the post-meal glucose surge.
The prescription drug metformin functions via several mechanisms to reduce blood glucose. The primary effect of metformin is its ability to inhibit gluconeogenesis, which is the generation of new glucose in the body from non-carbohydrate substrates such as amino acids.
Chlorogenic acid also inhibits gluconeogenesis, and it can help reduce post-meal glucose surges.
Life Extension® battled the FDA for nearly a decade to have metformin approved in the United States. (It had been approved in Europe decades before.) Metformin is now the most popularly prescribed drug worldwide to treat type 2 diabetes.
It is interesting that similar to chlorogenic acid obtained from green coffee beans, research that led to the development of metformin originated with an extract obtained from the French lilac. This historical perspective helps validate the powerful effects that plant-derived compounds exert on human physiology.
Those with persistently elevated glucose levels, in particular individuals who are overweight, should consider an aggressive program to keep fasting glucose levels as low as possible (between 70-85 mg/dL is ideal). There are several natural approaches (beyond green coffee bean extract) described in this article that can help accomplish this.
Contributing to the problem of chronic after-meal glucose surges is the age-related impairment in your body's ability to utilize calories efficiently, particularly carbohydrate calories.
Even if you reduce your carbohydrate intake, your body struggles to process any excess carbohydrates as you age. This implies that every carbohydrate-laden meal poses a threat to aging humans' healthy life span because of unavoidable age-related metabolic inefficiencies in carbohydrate metabolism.
Fortunately, there are several natural interventions that target factors implicated in after-meal blood sugar overload from carbohydrates after heavy meals.
An important connection exists between excess sugar in the blood and weight gain. Simply put, excess blood glucose leads to increased insulin… and increased insulin contributes to the difficulty in burning stored body fat as fuel and is also involved in the body storing more excess carbohydrate calories as unsightly fat.
Several innovative nutrients have been shown to help blunt postprandial glucose and safely manage weight gain.
When taken before meals, these nutrients neutralize enzymes implicated in blood sugar surges—particularly enzymes that convert carbohydrate into sugar.
Impeding Absorption of Excess Carbohydrate Calories
Alpha-amylase is a digestive enzyme secreted by the pancreas that converts starches into glucose in the small intestine. Extract of the common white kidney bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, helps to block alpha-amylase.
Phaseolus has been shown to diminish the effects of high-glycemic index foods (like white bread) that are notorious for producing sharp, potentially dangerous after-meal blood sugar spikes.1
In one notable study, after-meal blood sugar levels were measured in a group of healthy subjects after taking 50 grams of carbohydrate in the form of wheat, rice, and other high-carbohydrate plant foods.2 Phaseolus vulgaris inhibited the average post-ingestion spike in blood sugar by a remarkable 67%!
Because chronically elevated blood sugar contributes to weight gain, researchers have examined Phaseolus's effect on body fat storage.
In a UCLA School of Medicine study of 27 obese adults, half took either a placebo or Phaseolus vulgaris extract. After eight weeks, those taking the Phaseolus vulgaris extract lost 3.8 pounds in weight and almost 1.5 inches of detrimental belly fat.3
Published studies show that extract of the African mango Irvingia gabonensis also inhibits alpha-amylase-mediated conversion of carbohydrates into sugar,4 along with another key metabolic enzyme called glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase5 that converts blood sugar to triglycerides in fat cells. (Put simply, triglycerides are sugar and fat combined.) Irvingia suppresses glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase's activity, limiting the amount of glucose in the body converted into stored fat.
A 2006 study showed a reduction in after-meal blood sugar levels after taking irvingia, along with lower subsequent fasting blood glucose scores.6
Slowing the rate of carbohydrate absorption in your digestive tract is another highly effective way to avoid dangerous after-meal glucose surges.
Ingesting a high-density water-soluble fiber called propolmannan before meals has been shown to slow digestive carbohydrate breakdown through multiple mechanisms.
Propolmannan derives from the plant species Amorphophallus konjac. Used throughout Asia as a source of bulk in the diet, it creates a viscous barrier that impedes carbohydrate digestion, suppressing after-meal blood sugar surges.
It has been shown to make you feel full faster by "sponging up" water and quickly expanding in the stomach.
It also slows "gastric emptying"—the passage of food from the stomach into the small intestine—impeding carbohydrate overexposure in your digestive tract and blunting the after-meal glucose spike that would normally result.
Propolmannan's power to safely suppress after-meal glucose surges has generated compelling results. In a group of 72 diabetics given konjac foods, postprandial glucose levels fell by an average of 84.6 %.7
In placebo-controlled studies, propolmannan has induced weight loss of up to 7.92 pounds in eight weeks, along with significant reductions in post-meal glucose levels.8-10
A proprietary compound of extracts from bladderwrack and brown seaweed has been shown to inhibit activity of both amylase and glucosidase, enzymes responsible for converting carbohydrates into glucose that can raise blood sugar levels.
Both enzymes are powerfully inhibited within minutes of exposure to these seaweed extracts.
When this specific compound was fed to laboratory animals, glucose levels were reduced by up to 90% following a meal compared with non-supplemented animals.11
In reviewing the impressive results of published studies utilizing prescription drugs like metformin or acarbose, or nutritional approaches like white kidney bean extract or propolmannan, one would think that every aging person can easily achieve optimal blood glucose status.
The sad fact is that doctors have grossly underestimated the devastating impact aging inflicts on our ability to control fasting glucose and after-meal glucose surges. Tests of healthy younger people's blood seldom shows excess glucose readings, yet the vast majority of adults suffer persistently elevated blood sugar levels.
Incidence of type 2 diabetes is surging in the United States and in countries throughout the world that adopt unhealthy Western lifestyles.
The groundbreaking findings about chlorogenic acid found in standardized green coffee bean extract offer aging individuals a new opportunity to achieve optimal glucose control.
Those with persistently elevated glucose levels should consider a multimodal approach that may include Phaseolus vulgaris, Irvingia gabonensis, propolmannan, chromium, and other nutrients in addition to standardized green coffee bean extract, before most meals.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.
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9. Biancardi G, Palmiero L, Ghirardi PE. Glucomannan in the treatment of overweight patients with osteoarthritis. Curr Ther Res. 1989 Nov;46(5):908-12.
10. Doi K, Nakamura T, Aoyama N, Matsurura M, Kawara A, Baba S. Metabolic and nutritional effects of long-term use of glucomannan in the treatment of obesity. In: Oomura Y, ed. Progress in Obesity Research. John Libbey & Company, Ltd.; 1990:507-14.
11. InnoVactiv, Inc. Data on file.