Dietary advice from Governments, and their advisors, has been fundamentally flawed, not totally wrong, but flawed in one or more ways. The advice surrounding sugar is just one such area. True we should limit our intakes of sugars like Glucose, Fructose (corn syrup and other derivatives) and the biggest villain of all Sucrose. The only problem with this approach is that now all sugars have a bad press. Not all sugars are bad just one or two and even they have their place. For example Sucrose has a major role to play in brain function and if we didn’t get any our bodies would make it. Similarly Glucose is vital in terms of energy production and if we don’t have enough the body will find some.
However, in terms of sugar there is a new kid on the block, and this short article is to give you some simple understanding as to why it is not only important but useful. Let’s get one thing straight right at the start artificial anything including artificial sugar substitutes are not what we should be eating. In that bracket, at risk of offending the chemical companies, I include aspartame, Neotame and named sweeteners like NutraSweet, Sucralose, Splenda, Sweet-N-Low, and many others. If it doesn’t occur in nature then I’d probably prefer not to eat it. By the way that’s not saying that everything in nature is good either – Deadly Nightshade being a good example.
When we eat bread, rice, pasta and potato it very quickly turns into glucose which ends up being dumped into our blood system – we end up with high blood glucose levels which have to be reduced, to avoid damage, by Insulin. If we have too much glucose in our blood routinely and frequently then we end up exhausting our ability to control our blood glucose levels and that is what is termed by medics as diabetes.
If only we could find a substance that is sweet to taste, doesn’t harm us with chemicals and which doesn’t raise our blood glucose levels and yet gives us good energy levels we’d have the solution. That problem has been the driving force behind the development of all these artificial sweeteners, that inevitably harm us, and until recently there was little we could do but compromise on one of the goals above..
A few years ago scientists discovered a sugar that enabled succulent desert plants to survive long periods of extreme drought, heat and cold. That sugar was given the name Trehalose but its existence stayed in the science and research world for many years because the amounts available were so small as to be impossible to harvest. It has been researched for its possible use in cryogenics, stabilising proteins in the laboratory and many other intensely scientific areas and that’s where it stayed until quite recently.
A bright scientist recognised that by using an enzyme (the tools of many scientists) that it might be possible to create larger amounts of Trehalose from another suitable sugar like glucose. Glucose is a simple monosaccharide (a fancy name for a simple sugar) that is in a ring form. Trehalose coincidentally is a disaccharide (a fancy name for a sugar with two distinct but interlinked structures - often monosaccharide structures).
His idea was to join two glucose molecules together and produce a (disaccharide) Trehalose molecule. This novel approach took considerable time to perfect and his work now means that we can have an abundant supply of Trehalose at reasonable prices.
Step 1 - 2 Glucose Molecules
Step 2 Introduce Enzyme
Step 3 - Trehalose
When we eat Trehalose it tastes sweet, only just a little less sweet than Sucrose, but is not converted to Glucose (at least initially). The Trehalose passes into the stomach and through into the small intestine where there is a small amount of Trehalase, the enzyme, that breaks down Trehalose into 2 Glucose molecules. From here it is once again absorbed as Glucose but because of the way the digestive process works the food containing the Trehalose is spread out and you don’t get the sharp rise in blood Glucose levels.
Trehalose is also absorbed directly into the body and is used to protect nerve tissue, protect the islets of Langerhan’s where insulin is produced, even has an antioxidant potential. We know of no down-side to the use of Trehalose.
A Few Facts about Trehalose:
Best of all because it looks and tastes just like Sucrose (table sugar) it is exceptionally easy to make the transition from one to another. There are many other potential health benefits but that is another story.
You can cook with it and use it as a direct replacement for sugar in any recipe.