A recent study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food addressed the consumption of unrefined sugars or, rather, less refined sugars in persons suffering from Type II Diabetes. Researchers discovered that certain sugars inhibit alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme in the mammalian intestine which help to breakdown and absorb carbohydrates.
Type II Diabetes is noted for a dramatic rise in blood sugar after eating. Inhibiting the enzyme that aids in breaking down sugars and carbohydrates helps to minimize that blood sugar spike. Indeed, Many oral medications for type II diabetics function in a similar fashion by also inhibiting alpha-glucosidase.
As researchers analyzed several sweeteners, they discovered that less-refined sweeteners like date sugar contain higher levels of antioxidants. That should come as little surprise since unrefined and less-refined foods contain many natural compounds that would have otherwise been lost to processing.
What’s interesting, however, is that researchers also discovered that these less-refined sweeteners also inhibit alpha-glucosidase to some degree, thereby making them (in theory) more suitable for type II diabetics than their ultra-refined counterparts. And the researchers are quick to point out that further animal and human study is needed to fully understand its ramifications.
It’s probably wisest to avoid sweeteners altogether or to at least limit their consumption in your home; after all, sugar is still sugar and our ancestors rarely ate any food so concentrated with carbohydrates as we do today with the exception of the a very rare honey find. Still, studies like this one underscore the importance of choosing unrefined and less-refined foods while illustrating that even sugar could have benefits when eaten in its unrefined state. With a keen eye for limitation of course.
In our household, we use white sugar exclusively for cultured beverages like water kefir, kombucha and ginger beer while use honey and Sucanat when the occasional sweet tooth strikes.