Warning Signs

by Brian Ellis
Vitamin Retailer
March 2010 purba-ray.com

Dietary supplements, along with a healthy diet and exercise, offer the millions with pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome a chance to reverse their conditions before they develop into disease.

As members of the natural products retail industry, we are always aware of numbers. Sales of dietary supplements, organic products, personal care items, functional food and beverages are all regularly reported, making huge numbers that sometimes soar well into the billions seem commonplace.

While these estimates are valuable in their own right, they tend to overshadow numbers that, while smaller in scale, are in fact much more necessary to be heard, such as these: 54 million Americans aged 21 years and older have pre-diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and more than 50 million Americans have metabolic syndrome, according to the American Heart Association, equating to roughly one in four adults—for each condition.

The risks as a metabolic disorder signifying a higher level of blood glucose than normal but not enough to be categorized as diabetes, pre-diabetes is a critical warning of the very high likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. The possibility is so much greater that the CDC estimates people with pre-diabetes to be five to 15 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people with normal glucose values.

Also increasing the risk for developing type 2 diabetes is the group of metabolic risk factors known as metabolic syndrome. Closely related to prediabetes, metabolic syndrome, or insulin resistance syndrome, is the result of the body being unable to efficiently use insulin.

One of the challenges that has led to the high incidence of both conditions is that people don’t tend to notice any symptoms, and may in fact have the conditions for several years without noticing anything. While there are two tests people can take to determine whether they have pre-diabetes, such as fasting plasma glucose (FPG) and the 2-h oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), there are also multiple risk factors for both of these conditions people should know.

These risk factors include obesity, age over 45, lack of physical activity, positive family history of diabetes, gestational diabetes, the presence of elevated triglyceride and low HDL levels, and hypertension, said Dr. Michael Harris, director of diabetes for Cedars Sinai Medical Group in Los Angeles, and the medical advisor for Granola Gourmet (Santa Clarita, CA). “The existence of a sedentary, fast food, supersized lifestyle has definitely contributed to the high prevalence of both insulin resistance and pre-diabetes,” he said.

Another factor leading to the high incidence of both conditions, according to Guy Devin, national science educator for Source Naturals (Scotts Valley, CA), is how our food is processed. “It’s not that food itself is bad, but rather what we have done to our food supply, like genetically modified food organisms, the addition of high fructose corn syrup and the use oftoxic artificial sweeteners,” he said. “T his increases inflammation in the body, which then causes a cascading effect within our bodies.”

While inflammation is designed to kill infections and promote healing, chronic inflammation can produce growth factors and stimulate very serious degenerative disease processes, added Mike Shirota, president/CEO of Mushroom Wisdom (East Rutherford, NJ). Among the conditions stemming from pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome aside from type 2 diabetes, Shirota mentioned Alzheimer’s, cancer, autism, infertility stroke, heart disease and obesity.

“Alzheimer’s disease has already started to be called ‘type 3 diabetes,’ especially among the practitioners who apply integrative or alternative medicine,” he said. “I personally believe that cancer should be paid much more attention as one of the effects of metabolic syndrome.

It is said that cancer feeds on sugar, and the relationship between a high level of glucose in blood and cancer (especially breast and prostate) has been discussed lately.” State of the Market Though the realization of the large population of people affected by both metabolic syndrome and pre-diabetes can be discouraging, it does show there is potential for this category that, if realized, could present opportunities for exceptional growth.

For Mitch Skop, senior director, new product development, Pharmachem Laboratories (Kearny, NJ), consumers have already started making the connection between a poor diet, weight gain and metabolic syndrome. “We have seen increased interest in our natural products that reduce the absorption of carbohydrates and support healthy blood sugar levels,” he said.

“Worldwide, we have seen an enormous increase in Phase 2 Carb Controller sales as this crisis has reached pandemic levels worldwide.” Donna Noonan, Mushroom Wisdom’s vice president of marketing, has also seen an increase of sales on well researched products, but also noted that one of the hurdles that will need to be overcome to generate more sales is the fact that this topic is not appealing to many.

“The thought of blood sugar lowering, lowering blood pressure and reducing insulin resistance usually goes along with the dreaded ‘weight’ issue—these are not fun topics, especially if they hit home for many.” What is helping to make this topic more appealing to the masses, however, is the development of food that is both low glycemic and good tasting.

“Public awareness of low glycemic foods is growing. In just the last year we have seen national advertising campaigns for low glycemic diets and weight loss for diabetics,” said Jeff Cohen, president and granola visionary with Gourmet Granola, which offers energy bars for diabetics. “In 2006 the low glycemic market was only $350 million, but growing 45 percent annually. In 2011 it is expected to be $1.8 billion, according to a Packaged Facts report.” Dietary Supplements … and Pharmaceuticals?

Advertising dollars spent by drug companies have brought their message to the forefront of public awareness and have allowed them to maintain a large segment of health care dollars. While this may potentially spark feelings of contention among advocates of supplements, in regards to metabolic syndrome and prediabetes, it is important not to overlook the necessity of both sides in lowering the impact of these two conditions.

“We do not subscribe to the ‘us versus them’ approach, but fully believe in the pluralistic approach,” said Ulrik Breval-Carlsson, president of Sprunk-Jansen (Petaluma, CA), who cautioned retailers to never encourage people to ditch their cholesterol-lowering drugs in favor of any dietary supplement.

“Instead, retailers, who are specialists in dietary supplement advantages, should ensure their customers have the proper education about how such supplements as [Sprunk-Jansen’s] WEIGHLEVEL, CHOLESTEROL LEVEL and GLUCOSE LEVEL work harmoniously to support a healthy diet and exercise program along with the pharmaceuticals they may be taking.”

There is, however, good news for proponents of natural alternatives, according to Skop. “Rising drug and health care costs will continue to benefit the natural products industry. With more consumers making the connection between metabolic syndrome and a poor diet, they realize that taking a drug isn’t always the answer,” he said. “An increased focus on improving diet, exercise and use of natural products are other positive trends for our industry.” In influencing more people to start taking preventative measures, Devin recommended retailers “get the word out that nature has the wisdom to heal us on every level. Hippocrates said it well: ‘Let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food.’ If we look at the overall growth of our industry, we are making headway in so many important categories that we are now setting the competition.”

Making the Difference In furthering the impact of the trio of dietary supplements, healthy diet and exercise, the delivery of simple but compelling information to customers will be an important part of a successful message, as will communicating to those with pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome that they can do something to reverse the momentum of these conditions.

“Metabolic syndrome can be treated very effectively with proper diet and exercise, and it does not have to lead to diabetes,” assured Frank Assumma, director of marketing at Natural Health Science (Hoboken, NJ), the exclusive distributor of the French maritime pine bark extract Pycnogenol®, which has been shown to benefit people with metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and diabetes. “It is important to stress the need to maintain a healthy weight, and to exercise and eat properly.”

In getting across the importance of supplementation, retailers have a number of avenues to pursue in collecting the information they need to keep both themselves and their staff up-to-date in this category. One which Carol Ketring, store manager for Health Food Center in Oklahoma City, OK, utilizes is the manufacturers themselves. “Nordic Naturals, Natural Factors and Nature’s Plus are among the companies that always have research to back up their products,” she said, adding that many companies also offer staff trainings.

“In this industry, there are opportunities to learn everyday.” In helping customers gain access to some of the latest information and research, Health Food Center has an extensive resource center where their customers can find books on a variety of health topics. “It’s like a mini Barnes & Noble,” Ketring said. “People can search for a good diet or exercise program, or learn what they can do to keep their blood sugar in balance.”

For retailers who may not have the space to devote to a resource center, Source Natural’s Devin strongly recommended they establish within their supplement section a space where customers who are dealing with managing metabolic inflammation can find the products they need. After all, said Devin, “Each store in our industry is now the greatest source of information, quenching the flames of inflammation, bringing optimum health without side effects. When it comes to lifestyle and wellness prevention, we as an industry can have the farthest reaching effect for our communities.”

Here and There: Olympic Eating During The Winter Olympics

by Andrea Rademan
Sushi and Sake Magazine
November 20, 2009

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Over 60 million people in the U.S. have this disease or blood sugar issues. The Glycemic index rates carbohydrates according to their affect on blood glucose levels. Low GI carbs which produce only small fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels are the secret to reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes and are key to sustainable weight loss. GRANOLA GOURMET is made with ingredients that are not hydrated, making it harder on your body to digest them. Founder, Jeff Cohen who himself is diabetic, created these bars himself with no dairy, wheat or the high sugar fat and sodium found in some popular protein bars. They are the only product of this type that I had to keep myself from overeating. And that’s a mouthful. www.granolagourmet.com

Looking for a diabetic-friendly snack?

by Jenna Phillips – Nutrition/Fitness Expert
Mission Possible with Jenna Phillips
September 2009

I honestly believe that everyone would be better off if he or she ate like a person diagnosed with diabetes “should” eat. As much as I don’t like the word “should” (because “should” is so subjective), there’s no reason why people can’t eat foods to nourish their bodies instead of those that DEGENERATE them.  We hear so much about low-glycemic index foods but what does that really mean?

The glycemic index of food is a ranking of foods based on their immediate effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. Carbohydrate foods that breakdown quickly during digestion have the highest glycemic indexes. Eating these foods typically require a BUNCH of insulin (blehhhh!). Carbohydrates that breakdown slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the blood stream, have low glycemic indexes and don’t require as much insulin. I’m all about eating foods that don’t SPIKE my blood sugar so I don’t have to take a beyond-crazy load of insulin.

And why am I a huge fan of low GI stuff?

  • Low GI means a smaller rise in blood sugar and can help control established diabetes (yay!)
  • Low GI diets can help people lose weight and lower blood lipids (woo hoo!)
  • Low GI diets can improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin (yessssss!)

DUH! So, WHY ON EARTH would you NOT eat more low GI foods?! Oh, because high GI foods are soooo tasty? Um, really? Ok, fine. Let me give you a few suggestions:

  • sweet potato french fries instead of regular French fries
  • dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate
  • Granola Gourmet™ energy bars instead of ANY OTHER “pretending to be healthy” energy bars!

I discovered these yummy treats at the WHOLE FOODS on Wilshire and 6th street in Santa Monica. I fell in love at 1st taste and my blood sugar was SO happy with me when I munched on a few pieces of my new healthy find. With my high-intensity fitness regimen, this is a perfect source of sustainable energy for my multiple workouts throughout the week.

As a person diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I’m delighted that my sweet tooth can be satisfied with such a healthy treat! I honestly feel like I’m cheating when I eat them! Haha! But I’m so NOT cheating. With a nice dosage of fiber and ingredients like: Organic Whole Grain Oats, Organic Agave Syrup, Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, Honey, Almonds, Organic Flaxseeds,Organic Sunflower Seeds, Olive Oil, Alkalized Cocoa & Natural Vanilla Flavoring how can I possibly be cheating? My taste buds are fully confused when I nourish my body with the yumminess of Granola Gourmet™. So quit messin’ around with “pretending to be healthy” energy bars and GO GET SOME!!!

Diabetes is not just about your body…

Recently I replied to a girl that wanted to know if someone could make her care about her Diabetes.  At 16 her HBA1C was running over 10%.   The HBA1C test checks the blood to see how much of it is sugar and looks at this information over the life of your blood cells or about  3 to 6 months.  A normal reading is about 5.0% and 7.0% if you have Diabetes.

You may not realize that caring about your Diabetes is mental.  It’s about having a good support system and a desire for a full and healthy life.  When you have high blood sugar the problems don’t show up for years.  Since blood goes everywhere in your body and high sugar levels interfere with your body’s ability to heal itself, you will be looking at vision problems, circulation problems like not experiencing feeling in your extremities, your organs will be impacted (heart, liver, kidneys, not to mention your giblets :)) AND it can impact your SEX LIFE.

My response to the 16 year old that doesn’t care anymore…”if you are writing this so others can see it means that you do care and that’s a great first step.  If your family and friends are not providing the right support level then maybe it’s time to seek additional support.  Find a diabetes support group in your area or a counselor that understands the issues and can help you understand them better.”

Disclaimer: This information is provided for general informational purposes only. Granola Gourmet does not treat, cure or prevent diabetes or any disease, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Insulin the Miracle Cure

No matter if you are a type 1 or type 2 Diabetic, or if you have Gestational Diabetes, Insulin is the miracle cure.  Sure there are many different types of pills that you can take to manage your Diabetes, but none matter if there is no Insulin present.

When I was originally diagnosed with sugar readings over 4 times normal, I knew nothing about Insulin and all the different treatment options available.  My Dr. put me on Insulin and right away my blood glucose readings were under control within a week.  It was amazing and today I am grateful that in 1921 scientists at the University of Toronto discovered insulin.

In 1923 when insulin production began the lives of millions of people were changed.  We finally had a treatment which enabled us to live longer and improved the quality of our lives.  The life expectancy of a person with diabetes increased from 1 year to years.  I think that many of us take for granted the scientific research and investments made that have impacted the lives of people with diabetes.

Frankly, I’m glad we can take it for granted but we need to remember that since 20% of our population is either diabetic or at risk this is a problem we must face head on!

Disclaimer: This information is provided for general informational purposes only. Granola Gourmet does not treat, cure or prevent diabetes or any disease, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Back to Basics

Every so often we all need to get back to basics.  Simple blocking and tackling is really what I’m referring to.  If you are Diabetic (20% of us are Prediabetic or Diabetic, 7% of us are Diabetic) than that means thinking about how to reduce sugar intake.

Is it really that simple…NO, it’s not.  Sugar is only one part of the equation.  Anything you eat impacts your blood sugar.  Even things you would not expect like celery sticks!  So, how do you keep it simple when this is a complex problem to manage?

You do what most diets tell you to do.  You eat lean meats (chicken and fish), you eat plenty of veggies and as many of them raw as possible.  Now I know you are thinking raw, why raw?  Simple (again with simple) yes it is simple, you derive more benefit from the vegetables when they still have all the enzymes and over 118 degrees you lose much of those benefits.  Another simple reason is that your body must work harder to digest raw vegetables than cooked soft veggies.  This means that they convert to sugar in your blood slower.

Let’s face it, it does not matter what you want (once in a while) if you do what you need to do to stay healthy EVERY DAY.  Sure it’s challenging, but you can do it.  Eat smart and enjoy your longer healthier life.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for general informational purposes only. Granola Gourmet does not treat, cure or prevent diabetes or any disease, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Good Carbs, Bad Carbs – Simple Carbs

Just because something is simple, is that reason enough to use it? In my last post, I discussed Complex Carbs and we found that not all complex carbs are desirable for a diabetic. Now it’s time to take a look at Simple Carbs.

Simple Carbs are basically simple sugars. These sugars are easy to break down in your body and turn to sugar in your blood quickly. The simple answer to this is don’t eat them. That’s not always easy. After all it’s summer and my favorite fruits are ripe, sweet and delicious. Peaches, Nectarines, Cherries…

All are delicious and all have simple sugars that break down quickly. Not that I don’t enjoy my share of complex carbs in the summer but broccoli and other veggies just don’t give me the same joy of summer. So what do we do when we are tempted by summer fruits. After all our whole lives everyone has told us to eat our fruits and veggies. Aren’t all of these “healthy” foods good for us?

I wish! Clearly we are back to moderation and intake management. Since fruits contain simple sugars that convert to blood sugar quickly, how can I reduce the impact. This is not as difficult as it seems. Go ahead and PLAN to have a sweet juicy peach, just eat some protein and fat first and eat that peach right after. Remember by eating foods that take longer to convert to sugar along with foods that convert quickly you MAY be able to reduce the impact of simple sugars on your body.

How will you know? Test your blood! Always remember to test your blood and you’ll know if you can enjoy these delicious summer fruits.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for general informational purposes only. Granola Gourmet does not treat, cure or prevent diabetes or any disease, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Good Carb, Bad Carb

The key difference between a good or bad carbohydrate is the speed in which it converts to sugar in your blood!

Good carbs convert slowly. They make your body work harder to be digested and they have a measured sugar conversion that does not cause a sugar or insulin spike. These are often considered complex carbs. Some examples of complex carbs are Oats, Wheat, Whole Grains, Beans, Potato, Rice among others.

Complex carbs do not always convert slowly. They ARE NOT always good carbs. The following are a list of complex carbs I MUST NOT eat: Flour (any kind, don’t be fooled because it’s from a complex carb), Whole Wheat Pasta, Potato (Mashed and Baked are the worst), Rice (even brown).

Think about it, when you hydrate or soften a food it breaks down in your body faster. I’ve tested my sugar with all of these items and when your meter says 300 you know you are doing damage. There are many great choices that you can make today. Complex carbs are better than simple carbs if you are eating them in their most natural state. That would be unprocessed! Processing the food usually makes it easier to digest and so they turn to sugar in your blood much more quickly.


Disclaimer: This information is provided for general informational purposes only. Granola Gourmet does not treat, cure or prevent diabetes or any disease, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Low Glycemic Diets

Every time I talk to someone about foods that are Low Glycemic there is confusion. Lately I’ve started looking at moving to focused Low Glycemic diet and have been evaluating several. The main theme I have found is a focus on protein and away from sugar and carbs.

While I agree that this will certainly support a Low Glycemic diet, I also have found much confusion about the Glycemic Index and how foods impact your blood sugar. This topic requires a diabetic that tests their blood sugar in order to truly determine what food is or is not having a Low Glycemic Impact.

I define Low Glycemic Impact as the actual impact that food has on YOUR body. Different foods impact people differently. Since diabetics test their blood sugar monthly it is common for us to actually see the Glycemic Impact. As a diabetic looking to have a sugar reading of 100 as a target we know that when we eat something and the reading goes to 200 that is bad.

People often come up to me at the Market and ask about the carb count in our granola bars. Some say how can these be Low Glycemic when they have 22 grams of Carbohydrates? A great question and one that requires a great answer, fortunately I have one.

When you combine all the ingredients your body has to digest them all at the same time. Our ingredients are very low on the Glycemic Index, but we do things with our recipe that help make the bars even lower. A great example of this is how we treat the oats we use differently than you do with oatmeal. Oatmeal is hydrated when it is cooked. This makes it easier to break down in your body. Our oats are not hydrated, in fact we remove as much of the moisture as possible. This makes your body work harder to digest it.

We also replace the sugar with Agave which is super low on the Glycemic Index and Honey which is much lower than sugar on the index as well.

The point is that when you look into Glycemic Index you need to look deeper than just at the carb or sugar count. Look a the product and test your blood sugar. I recommend when you test your sugar you take a fasting reading and then eat the food item. Test every 30 minutes for 2 hours and you will know what the Glycemic Impact is for YOU!

Disclaimer: This information is provided for general informational purposes only. Granola Gourmet does not treat, cure or prevent diabetes or any disease, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Bagels or Donuts, which is better for a Diabetic?

My family is addicted to bagels. They would all have a bagel for breakfast everyday if they were in the house. As a diabetic this is clearly not a good choice for me, but I’ve learned how to cut a sliver off the bagel (careful it’s not so easy) and enjoy a quarter of one every once in a while.

Bagels today have over 50 carbs each and I know you can’t just take half, can you? It’s tough to do and the fact is that if you are going to eat a whole bagel, you may as well have a donut or two. Why? Simple, because as a person with diabetes you are going to be spiking your blood sugar in the next 30 minutes and if you are going to do it with a bagel, you may as well aim for a diabetic coma and really enjoy your sin :)

OK, maybe that’s a little over the edge. After all most of us won’t slip into a diabetic coma after a bagel or donut, but your sugar will become uncontrollable and you will pay for it. If you really want to cheat ask yourself if you are prepared to deal with the consequences of high blood sugar.

If you become sleepy when your sugar spikes, make sure you have your night cap on.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for general informational purposes only. Granola Gourmet does not treat, cure or prevent diabetes or any disease, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.