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Mesquite Pod Sugar, Glycemic Index and Diabetes

Casa de Mesquite’s perspectives on the mesquite pod sugar, glycemic index and diabetes.

Casa de Mesquite is in business to make a profit and does not want to turn down any legitimate marketing avenue. However we have been concerned by popular articles and web sites suggesting that in spite of the 45% sugar in mesquite flour, which is sucrose, that this flour will be good for patients with diabetes. It is the intent of the information below to share with our readers, the most complete information we have available on the subject of sugars, diabetes and the glycemic index.

The most comprehensive study on the amounts and kinds of sugars in mesquite pods was published in 1980 by Becker and Grosjean (1980) in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. For the California and Arizona native mesquite’s, these authors found the disaccharide sucrose (glucose bonded to fructose) was the most abundant sugar in the pericarp (pulpy portion) (27.0 and 32% respectively) and the next most common sugar was raffinose (a trisaccharide consisting of glucose, fructose and galactose) (1.2% and 0.5% respectively). No free fructose or glucose was found in the pods. While Bravo et al., (1998) found low concentrations of glucose, fructose and xylose in syrups made by prolonged heating of water extracts of P. pallida pods, we believe these sugars are a result of sucrose hydrolysis on prolonged heating.

The concept of the glycemic index has been developed by the University of Sydney in Australia (http://www.glycemicindex.com/). The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. This theory suggests that even though there may be high levels of sugars in the particular food, the absorption of those sugars into the blood is influenced by the other components in the food, principally fiber.

In 2002, the American Society of Clinical Nutrition held an ad hoc workshop on the subject of glycemia and invited the major proponent of the Glycemic index to participate, i.e. Dr. JC Brand-Miller, Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences, University of Sydney, NSW. In addition the society invited researchers from the Department of Nutrition, Kings College London (Leeds, 2002), Department of Medicine, Children’s Hospital, Boston (Ludwig and Eckel, 2002), Obesity Research Center, St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York (Xavier Pi-Sunyer, 2002), Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto (Jenkins et al., 2002), and the Harvard School of Public Health (Willett et al., 2002).

We believe this workshop is best summarized by the following statement of Ludwig and Eckel,(2002). "During the past 20 y, >100 scientific studies have examined the application of the GI or GL to diabetes mellitus, obesity, cardiovascular disease, behavioral disorders, and physical performance (8-10). Several popular nutrition books, with combined sales of several million copies, advocate the consumption of low- GI diets (11-13). Moreover, use of the GI has been endorsed by the FAO/WHO (14) and numerous other international health related organizations. However, there is by no means a consensus regarding the utility of the GI to human health and nutrition. Many clinicians and researchers, especially in the United States, have questioned the relevance and practicality of the GI."

Due to the high sucrose content in mesquite bean flour, the health risks to persons with diabetes from free sucrose, and the controversy regarding the validity of the glycemic index, we cannot at this time recommend mesquite flour for people with diabetes. If replicated, controlled studies at major University affiliated medical hospitals find a statistical benefit of consuming mesquite flour for diabetes patients, we will be pleased to recommend it to persons with diabetes.

Literature cited.

Becker, B. and O-K, K. Grosjean. 1980. A compositional study of two varieties of mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa, P. velutina.) Journal Agriculture Food Chemistry 28: 22-25.

Brand-Miller, J.C., S.H.A Holt, D. B Pawlak, and J. McMillan. 2002. Glycemic index and obesity.Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76(suppl): 281S-285S

Bravo, L., Grados, N. and F. Saura-Calixto. (1998). Characterization of syrup and dietary fibre obtained from mesquite pods (Prosopis pallida L). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 46, 1727-1733.

Jenkins, D.J.A., C.W.C Kendall, L. S.A. Augustin, S. Franceschi, M.Hamidi, A. Marchie, A. L. Jenkins, and M. Axelsen. 2002. Glycemic index: overview of implications in health and disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76(suppl): 266S-273S

Leeds, A.R. 2002.Glycemic index and heart disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76(suppl):286S-289S

Ludwig, D.S., and R. H Eckel. 2002. The glycemic index at 20 yr. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76(suppl):264S-265S

Pi-Sunyer, F.X. 2002.Glycemic index and disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76(suppl):290S-298S

Willett, W., J. Manson, and S. Liu. 2002. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and risk of type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76(suppl):274S-280S

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From Our California Orchards to You Since 1908.
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