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Tequila plant is a possible sweetener for diabetics: It helps reduce blood sugar

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A sweetener created from the plant used to make tequila could lower blood glucose levels for the 26 million Americans and others worldwide who have Type 2 diabetes and help them and the obese lose weight, researchers said here today, March 16, 2014. Their report, "Agavins as potential novel sweeteners for obese and diabetic people," was part of the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. You also may wish to check out the site of the 247th ACS National Meeting & Exposition which this year is in Dallas, Texas.

The tequila plant is a possible sweetener for diabetics. It helps reduce blood sugar, weight, says new research. A sweetener created from the plant used to make tequila could lower blood glucose levels for the 26 million Americans and others worldwide who have type 2 diabetes and help them and the obese lose weight, researchers said here today, March 16, 2014. The main reason it could be valuable, they explained, is that agavins, a natural form of sugar found in the agave plant, are non-digestible and can act as a dietary fiber, so they would not raise blood glucose. Their report was part of the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. Mondelez International and Agavaceae Produce supported the study.

The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, features more than 10,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. Being held at the Dallas Convention Center and area hotels, it continues through Thursday, March 20, 2014. "We have found that since agavins reduce glucose levels and increase GLP-1, they also increase the amount of insulin," said Mercedes G. López, Ph.D., according to the March 16, new release, "Tequila plant is possible sweetener for diabetics -- helps reduce blood sugar, weight."

GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) is a hormone that slows the stomach from emptying, thereby stimulating production of insulin. She added, according to the news release, "Agavins are not expensive and they have no known side effects, except for those few people who cannot tolerate them." In addition, agavins, like other fructans, which are made of the sugar fructose, are the best sugars to help support growth of healthful microbes in the mouth and intestines, she explained in the news release. López, who is with Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados, Biotechnology and Biochemistry Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico, also noted that agavins can help people feel fuller, which could help them eat less.

Agavins contain fructoses, which begs the question: Are agavins like high-fructose corn syrup, a processed sweetener that has gotten a lot of bad press recently? López pointed out that, indeed, high-fructose corn syrup is loaded with fructose sugars and, therefore, can raise blood sugar levels. But agavins are fructans, which are fructoses linked together in long, branched chains.

The human body can't use them in that configuration, so they don't affect blood sugar, she explained, according to the news release. Agavins also sometimes get confused with agave nectar or agave syrup, which appears on many health-food store shelves. These products contain fructans that have been broken down into individual fructoses, so they are much more similar to high-fructose corn syrup.

Also, she and her team said agavins are better than artificial sweeteners, which are absorbed by the body and can cause side effects, like headaches. "One slight downside, however, is that agavins are not quite as sweet as their artificial counterparts," she explained in the news release.

Of course, the agave's claim to fame is as the plant from which tequila is made

López explained, according to the news release, that agavins are the only carbohydrates used to produce the drink. All ethanol in tequila comes from the fermentation of glucose and fructose generated after agave pines are cooked. But because the agavins are converted to ethanol, agavins are not found in the finished product.

López said, according to the news release, that in the study, her team fed a group of mice a standard diet and added agavins to their daily water. They weighed the mice daily and checked their glucose blood levels weekly. Most mice that drank agavins ate less, lost weight and their blood glucose levels decreased when compared to other sweeteners such glucose, fructose, sucrose, agave syrup and aspartame. "This study represents the first attempt to evaluate agavins as sweeteners in spite of their lower sweetness compared to sugar,'" she said, according to the news release.

Agavins as potential novel sweeteners for obese and diabetic people

Agavins are fructans contained in most Agave species. Fructans are polysaccharides with a wide range of applications in food items, among their more relevant uses are as prebiotics, soluble fiber, and indigestible carbohydrates, to mention some. Inulin from chicory (Cichorium intybus) has been in the market for decades, it is well known prebiotic and it has been deeply investigated, a large number of research paper have confirmed many of the kindness of this carbohydrate, notes the study's abstract.

Most of these applications are as a supplement, agavins are been now used as supplements too but, what about their use as sweeteners? In spite of the many efforts done to perform more research in agavins, their similarities with inulins have been a stumbling block. Therefore, we believe that agavins have a great potential as light sweeteners since they are sugars, highly soluble, have a low glycemic index, and a neutral taste, but most important, they are not metabolized by humans.

This puts agavins in a tremendous position for their consumption by obese and diabetic people

Researchers housed male mice of the line C57BL/6J, mice were fed a standard diet; agavins with different polymerization degrees (DP) obtained from different Agave species, were added in their daily water. Mice were weighed daily and their glucose blood levels check weekly. Most mice that drank agavins independently of their DP reduced their food intake and lost weight, a reduction on the glucose levels in blood was also observed.

This study represents the first attempt to evaluate agavins as sweeteners in spite of their lower sweetness compared to sugar table. Moreover, agavins as other fructans are the best sugar for oral and intestinal microbiota, notes the study's abstract. Now it's up to possibly more research to show how long-term use of the agvins affects the human body and in what ways. After all, mice were the participants in the recent research on blood glucose measurements and levels.

Better-tasting reduced-fat desserts, dressings, sauces: Coming soon?

Adjusting the calcium level and acidity could be the key to developing new better-tasting, more eye-appealing and creamier reduced-fat sauces, desserts and salad dressings that could be on the market soon, researchers reported today. The new research was presented today, March 16, 2014 at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The only issue for many consumers is they can make their own desserts, dressings, and sauces and leave out the added fats or oils by substituting mashed prunes for fats in desserts such as baking or even lecithin granules and mashed prunes and a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds to substitute for eggs in baking, frozen desserts, or smoothies. On the other hand, if someone is looking for convenience foods to save time in food preparation, the question of taste arises, unless you follow the adage of Jack LaLanne "if it tastes good, spit it out." But low-fat or no added fat foods can taste pretty good if other foods are substituted for the fats.

Some people like to add mashed avocado to food instead of adding oils or other fats to get a creamy texture to the food. Other cooks substitute pureed prunes for added fats in sweet desserts or baked goods. See, "Prune Puree (Fat Substitute for Baking) ." Also pureed pears are a good fat substitute. See, "Baking Alternatives - Reducing Fat in Your Favorite Baked Goods ."

To date, a major problem with removing fat from these accompaniments is that in addition to reducing calories, it can negatively affect the flavor, appearance and texture, researchers said, according to the March 16, 2014 news release, "Better-tasting reduced-fat desserts, dressings, sauces: Coming soon?" But based on recent research it may not be too long before new, improved, lower-fat foods appear in grocery stores, the researchers predicted. Their study was part of the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. ConAgra Foods supported the study, "Fabrication of reduced fat products by controlled aggregation of lipid droplets."

The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, features more than 10,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. Being held at the Dallas Convention Center and area hotels, it continues through Thursday, March 20, 2014. In the laboratory study, the team reduced the fat content and, therefore, calories in a model white sauce from 10 percent to 2 percent without sacrificing the look and feel of the food. "By controlling pH and calcium content, we are able to regulate the interactions among fat droplets," said Bicheng Wu, a graduate student, according to the March 16, 2014 news release, Better-tasting reduced-fat desserts, dressings, sauces: Coming soon? "This makes them stick together and form flocs, or clumps. We believe the water trapped inside these flocs makes the sauce seem fattier than it really is and preserves the look, feel and flavor."

Wu explained that fat plays various roles in determining the overall sensory attributes of food products

"It carries flavors, so cutting the fat content lessens the intensity of the flavor. The appearance, meaning the opacity or lightness, of a food mixture largely depends on light scattering by fat droplets, so high fat content gives a milky appearance to a sauce or dressing." She also said, according to the news release, that high fat content is also related to the thick, smooth and creamy feel in your mouth of many products, like pudding, due to the effect of fat droplets on how the liquid flows.

Yet another problem with cutting the fat content is that it doesn't make people feel as full, said D. Julian McClements, Ph.D., who is the leader of the University of Massachusetts Amherst research team that conducted the study. "Due to the high calorie count in fat and how the body digests it, fat also affects the feeling of satiety."

Despite the daunting task, the group has had success, according to Wu. "Often we see people reacting to the texture of our low-fat sauce sample even before they taste it," she said. "They say, 'Wow! No way it's only 2 percent fat. It looks like custard! Can I try it?"'

McClements said that the team soon plans extensive taste and smell tests. "Then we will be able to adjust the composition and incorporate other seasoning ingredients into the foods," he explained. "Since this fat reduction is easy for us now, and the fact that our new products contain healthy ingredients that can be used in a wide range of products means there's a great potential to reach the market in the near future." The media can access video of the event and ask questions at the ACS Ustream channel.

Fabrication of reduced fat products by controlled aggregation of lipid droplets

The creation of high quality reduced-fat food products is challenging because the removal of fat adversely affects quality attributes, such as appearance, texture, and flavor, accord to the abstract of the new reasearch. This study investigated the impact of pH- or calcium-induced droplet aggregation on the microstructure and physicochemical properties of model mixed colloidal dispersions containing 2 wt% protein-coated fat droplets and 4 wt% modified starch (hydroxypropyl distarch phosphate).

DIC and confocal microscopy showed that the aggregation state of fat droplets dispersed within the interstitial region between the starch granules can be altered by modulating the inter-droplet electrostatic interactions using either pH adjustment or calcium addition. So the researchers set about controlling the pH levels and calcium concentration to get the desirable properties. The goal of research with reduced fat ingredients is to fabricate reduced fat food products. But the question is do the sauces, dressings, and desserts have the desirable sensory attributes customers will buy?

Another alternative is make your own sauces or desserts, dressings or condiments with your favorite ingredients that taste good to you if you ate those ingredients by themselves. You, the consumer can arrive at a mix of food ingredients based on your personal taste without adding fats or oils if you find what food substitutes well for the fats. For example, some chefs use mashed prunes in baking instead of adding fats to the batter or dough.

Systematically controlling pH and calcium concentration can modulate the microstructure of the mixed colloidal dispersions and obtain a system with a high yield stress and apparent viscosity and other desirable properties. This study has important implications for fabricating reduced fat food products with desirable sensory attributes such as sauces, dressings and desserts, notes the study's abstract.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. Follow the ACS on Twitter or Facebook.

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