Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Why healthy blood glucose levels matter to our immunity

Wazzup Pilipinas!

The pandemic has made people around the world more concerned about having a strong immunity to fight possible infections. Asia is no different, with nearly two-thirds (65%)[1] of consumers in the region indicating that they are now more conscious about their immune health. It is clear that the importance of having a strong immunity has never been higher.

However, some may not realise that having a healthy blood glucose level is equally important, as high blood glucose levels (even for a short time) can harm our immunity[2]. Recent research has shown that the inverse might also be true, as healthy blood glucose levels have been linked to a reduction in the impact of COVID-19 for patients.

A recent study conducted with more than 7,000 patients admitted to 19 hospitals in China for COVID-19 found that those with diabetes not only needed more medical treatment, but they also had a higher risk of death[3]. The study also found that patients with good blood glucose levels did not require as much medical treatment, as their cases were less severe, and their risk of death was also lower.

These findings also align with research done in the UK of more than 20,000 patients infected with COVID-19[4], which show that patients who already suffer from health implications like diabetes, as well as obesity, had a higher risk for death from COVID-19. These studies have shown that maintaining a healthy blood glucose level is now more important than ever.


The link to immunity

It has been shown that high blood sugar levels weaken our immunity system, which then may lead to the fact that a virus (like in the case of COVID-19) is harder to fight — thus taking longer to recover. It might also be, that the virus thrives in an environment of elevated blood glucose [5]. This is particularly relevant to Asia Pacific, as the region has more than 251[6] million diabetics and this number is expected to grow to more than 365 million by 2045. So, what could we do to achieve better blood glucose levels?

The good news is improved blood glucose levels can be achieved by choosing the right type of carbohydrates (i.e. high-quality carbohydrates[7]). Carbohydrates are important nutrients in our diet as they are the preferred source of energy for the body and brain. However, many of the carbohydrates that we usually eat in Asia are of poor physiological quality, as they are rapidly digested in the body and raise our blood glucose levels to high levels very quickly (e.g. white rice and its products, white bread, foods made from wheat flour and starches, glucose, maltodextrin, sucrose). Currently, in the market there are only some carbohydrates that are of high quality — meaning those that are slowly yet fully digested, leading to a slower and lower blood glucose response.


Quality carbohydrate for balanced blood glucose levels

One example of a high-quality carbohydrate is Palatinose™ (also called isomaltulose). It is a slowly, yet fully digestible low glycaemic carbohydrate that delivers energy in a slow and sustained way[8].

Palatinose™ naturally occurs in small amounts in sugar cane juice and honey and is manufactured on a large scale from sugar beets. Its brand name, Palatinose™, comes from the region Palatinate in Germany, where these sugar beets are grown.

The beneficial effect of Palatinose™ on blood glucose levels and its corresponding insulin response have been demonstrated in various human clinical studies and in all groups of people, including those who are healthy, people with diabetes, during pregnancy, and those who have a normal weight or are overweight. One study also found that Asians seem to benefit even more from Palatinose™ as it led to an even lower blood glucose response as compared to Caucasians[9].

Another study done showed a lower blood glucose response over 24 hours after meals when Palatinose™ was eaten as part of a low glycaemic diet as compared to the group who consumed a high glycaemic diet with sucrose[10]. The results demonstrated that overall, the blood glucose levels over the day were lower and more balanced in the group with the low glycaemic diet who consumed Palatinose™ as compared to the group with the high glycaemic diet.

Recently, a study showed that one simple and innovative way to improve the nutritional quality of food products is by using low glycaemic carbohydrates to substitute high glycaemic carbohydrates such as sucrose or maltodextrin  Even though the original food product was already low glycaemic, substituting part of the sucrose with a low glycaemic carbohydrate resulted in an even lower blood glucose and insulin response[11].


Smart choice


These days, taking good care of our blood glucose levels — in all stages of life — is more important than ever as it influences how well our body’s immunity system is functioning. Choosing food and drinks containing high quality carbohydrates such as Palatinose™ can help consumers to achieve an overall lower blood glucose response. This is a step in the right direction for now, and beyond the pandemic.

[1] FMCG Gurus survey (2020)


[2] Jafar N, Edriss H, Nugent K (2016) The Effect of Short-Term Hyperglycemia on the Innate Immune System. Am J Med Sci 351(2):201–211.


[3] Zhu et al. (2020) For people with diabetes and COVID-19, blood sugar control is key


[4] Docherty AB, (2020) Features of 20 133 UK patients in hospital with covid-19 using the ISARIC WHO Clinical Characterisation Protocol: Prospective observational cohort study. BMJ 369:m1985.


[6] International Diabetes Federation (2019) IDF Diabetes Atlas: Ninth edition.


[7] Salvatore, Incretin Hormones: The Link between Glycemic Index and Cardiometabolic Diseases. Nutrients 11(8).


[8] Maresch CC, Petry SF, Theis S, Bosy-Westphal A, Linn T (2017) Low glycemic index prototype isomaltulose - update of clinical trials. Nutrients 9(4):381.


[9] Tan WSK, Tan S-Y, Henry CJ (2017) Ethnic Variability in Glycemic Response to Sucrose and Isomaltulose. Nutrients 9(4):347.


[10] Henry CJ, Kaur B, Quek RYC, Camps SG (2017) A low glycaemic index diet incorporating isomaltulose is associated with lower glycaemic response and variability, and promotes fat oxidation in Asians. Nutrients 9(5):473.


[11] Kaur B, Koh M, Ponnalagu S, Henry CJ (2020) Postprandial blood glucose response: Does the glycaemic index (GI) value matter even in the low GI range? Nutr Diabetes 10(1):1–8.


Anke Sentko

Vice President Regulatory and Nutrition Communication, BENEO Institute


Goh Peen Ern

Manager Nutrition Communication, BENEO Institute

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