Could a starchy snack reduce diabetes risk?

Good news for food lovers: Eating a starchy snack may reduce your risk for diabetes.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) are looking into a non-digestible starch that might help to slow nutrient absorption and therefore reduce stress on the pancreas in women.

“Although the mechanism through which resistant starch benefits health is not entirely clear, it is possible that resistant starch affects the composition of the microorganisms in the digestive tract,” said Barbara Gower, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences in the UAB School of Health Professions.

Women set to complete 20-week study

UAB is testing the resistant starch--which will be delivered in the form of cookies--on 40 women in both pre- and post-menopause. Different doses of the starch will be given to the women over three four-week periods. The women will follow their normal diets during the study and will be tested for insulin at the end of each month-long trial.

Gower notes that specific biochemicals produced in the gut may be positively affected by the starch, which might help the body's ability to produce insulin and lower blood sugar.

Disease prevention

Researchers hope that the starch testing will provide better clues as to which factors determine risk for diabetes and other chronic diseases.

“Experience shows that most of us just don’t eat a healthy diet on a regular basis,” said Gower. “We want to see whether this could be an easy way to ‘clean up’ our diet, with something as simple as a starch supplement delivered through a cookie or other snack, and reduce the risk for diabetes.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, menopausal women face a variety of health changes that might make them more susceptible to diabetes, including fluctuating hormone levels, weight gain and sleep problems.

Sources: UAB News, Mayo Clinic

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