But what if there was a natural product that effectively reduced blood sugar and calories and could be added to the food supply? That's the premise behind Emulin, a patented formulation of compounds found in fruits, like grapefruit and berries.
"Emulin, a tasteless additive, blocks the absorption of sugar by more than 30 percent," the manufacturer claims. "By having it in the food supply, we will see a rapid reduction in obesity and diabetes rates," said Joseph Ahrens, chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs for ATM Metabolics, which created the product. Emulin is added to sugar (called Sugir) by some manufacturers; the company is working to add it to beverages, breads and cereals.
A product with Emulin called GC7X is available at GNC. Each 90-count bottle, for $44.95, represents a 30-day supply.
Though small independent studies have been conducted, there is no published research on the efficacy or safety of Emulin. The largest trial, which included 40 people and was financed by ATM Metabolics, has been submitted for publication in the International Journal of Medicinal Foods, Ahrens said. The weeklong study found that those receiving both Emulin and the drug metformin had lower fasting blood sugar levels than those who received no medication or metformin alone.
Emulin, consisting of three compounds (myricetin, quercetin and cholorgenic acid), may work by shutting down one metabolic pathway and stimulating absorption by the muscle tissue, Ahrens said. It's not a sugar-replacer, like Splenda. Instead, it's a "carbohydrate manager, so it prevents absorption of sugar to the small intestine and diverts the sugar that is in the blood to the muscles instead of the fat tissue," Ahrens said. Susan Percival, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Florida, said that diversion doesn't cause any problems, as "sugar is the preferred source of energy for the muscle."
"Nature intended for (these compounds) to be in our foods," Ahrens said. "We've inadvertently removed it by eating refined products."
Still, there's a red flag: A lack of any published peer-reviewed research. "It's pretty important to do these studies in humans under normal eating circumstances," said Percival, who called Emulin a "very interesting, albeit secretive product."
Experts also say that it's a bad idea to eat sugary foods in general, even if the body is absorbing less sugar. High-sugar foods "generally don't provide much nutrition, vitamins, minerals, protein or fiber," said Susan Weiner, a New York City-based registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. Selecting vegetables, whole grains and fruits as carb choices will allow people with diabetes to better manage their blood sugar levels, she said.
The bottom line
"Spreading carbs throughout the day, eating adequate lean protein, healthy fats, fiber and monitoring blood sugar levels will help control diabetes — and obesity — more than consuming a 'diabetes-friendly' sugar product with unknown long-term side effects," Weiner said. "It will never be a substitute for a nutritious diet and a lot of physical activity in the management of diabetes."