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From Winona, Missouri, USA:

I would like to know more about the ingredient hydrogenated starch hydrolysate and its effect on diabetes (or on the body in general). My 79 year old father, who has had type 2 diabetes for almost 25 years, has in the last couple of years taken to freely eating "sugar-free" candy made primarily of this ingredient (he eats from three to six pieces a day every day). His blood sugar levels haven't shown any discernible change (He still remains at the high end of normal for the most part, with some high and low swings at times, and his long-term Ai1c level was most recently at 7.3%). I asked the doctor about eating so much of this candy on a regular basis, and he could only say it probably was not a good idea, but didn't know enough to say why. I haven't been able to find any information on just what hydrogenated starch hydrosylate is, and my dad won't stop eating the candy unless someone with a medical degree tells him why he shouldn't. Any information you can give me would be appreciated!


You raise an interesting question."Hydrogenated starch hydrolysate" is starch -- probably from corn -- that has been chemically broken down into small fragments (hydrolysed) and treated with hydrogen (hydrogenated). These are both familiar processes. Starches are similarly broken down in the body during digestion, and most of us have used margarines and shortenings at times that are hydrogenated. Hydrogenating oils produces saturated fats that are potentially harmful, but I know of no such problem when starches are hydrogenated. The purpose is to make a food additive, probably to add bulk and sweetness to the candy recipe.

These products are not technically sugars, even though they add sweetness to foods, and so the food can be labeled "sugar free." I know of no reasons to be concerned about the general safety of these products.

In terms of your dad's diabetes, it's not the large print on the front of the package (sugar free) that is as important as the amount of "total carbohydrate" from the nutrition label, and the actual effect of these items on his blood sugar. Some sugar-free foods raise blood sugar equal to regular candy and some do not.

A few small pieces of candy a day -- either sugar free orregular -- shouldn't be a problem to your dad's overall diabetes control. And his hemoglobin A1c suggests that he is doing pretty well. I might suggest he try testing his blood sugar an hour or two after eating the candy to see the acute effect. That would show him whether the serving size is working well for him. Otherwise, if he enjoys it and his health is not being affected, I can think of no good reason he should stop -- unless, of course, it would be to switch to a bit of "real" candy.

Sugar is no more a problem to diabetes control than other forms of carbohydrate. Learning the carbohydrate value of foods will allow your dad to enjoy virtually any kind of food and still keep his blood sugar in control. Usually, for people with type 2 diabetes on tablets, portions will need to be managed to achieve control, but there are no "forbidden foods" on the diabetes nutritional recommendations any more.


Original posting 9 Apr 2001
Posted to Meal Planning, Food and Diet


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:20
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