Food for Thought: Cranberries as the rising star in blood sugar management

Early research shows cranberries may slow the absorption of starchy foods, preventing spikes in blood sugar.

A recent study has found that cranberries are the most significant inhibitor of starch-digesting enzymes. Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters
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A recent study published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests tannin compounds found in cranberries, pomegranates, grapes and cacao may slow the digestion of starch.

Starchy foods such as potatoes, pasta and rice would typically cause a dramatic spike in blood sugar, particularly among the diabetic, which the consumption of cranberries seemed to mitigate.

The study, carried out by researchers from the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Centre, James Madison University, Rutgers University and Ohio State University on a number of foods, found that cranberries were the most significant inhibitor of starch-digesting enzymes.

The interesting point to consider is that the current approach to medically controlling blood sugar is to inhibit the performance of specific enzymes that are involved in starch digestion. However medications that do this can carry negative side effects, sparking diarrhea and other intestinal problems. This study shows that cranberries may prompt the same action as the medication, without the associated side effects.

Due to their high level of natural sugars many fruits typically raise blood sugar levels, and are often avoided by diabetics. It seems cranberries, however, followed by pomegranates and grapes, are a much safer choice.

A study carried out in 2008 and published in "Diabetic Medicine" that analyzed the effectiveness of cranberry supplements showed they appeared to lower cholesterol while having a neutral effect on blood sugar levels in patients taking glucose-lowering medications. However, another study the same year published in The Journal of Food Science found that drinking unsweetened cranberry juice helped type 2 diabetics to avoid a significant rise in blood sugar. Although the evidence is far from conclusive, cranberries seem to be beneficial for the control of blood sugar, particularly when eating starchy foods, and safe for diabetics to enjoy.

Laura Holland is a well-being consultant and nutritional therapist. For more information, go to www.BeUtifulYou.Com

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