When I hear someone say "complex carbs," the first images that come to mind are pizza and pasta -- and the inevitable post-meal glucose spike and lingering high blood sugars that follow.
But a biomedical pharma company in New Hampshire is working on a fix for this -- a chewable tablet that looks similar to a glucose tablet, but does the exact opposite: it combats post-meal glucose spikes.
The company name is familiar: Boston Therapeutics, established in 2009 to focus on this area of diabetes food-related medication, and its new product is part of a so-called next generation of Alpha Glucosidase Inhibitor (AGI), or what many of us refer to as "starch blockers" that reduce post-meal BG spikes by blocking the enzymes in our body from releasing glucose after we eat complex carbs.
As of now, the new product is simply known by its research moniker: BTI-320.
Like most of these supplement-like meds for diabetes, it's aimed at people with type 2. But that doesn't mean those of us with type 1 shouldn't be paying attention; there could be possible benefits for type 1s too, just as with many well-known T2 meds like metformin and the newer SGLT-2 inhibitors. Research is already underway on the impact of those meds with T1D and the findings are encouraging so far.
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But here's where things get murky: The company has also just released a dietary supplement called SugarDown that by all appearances is pretty much the same as BTI-320 except that it falls into the non-prescription dietary supplement category. We received a hyped-up email pitch about this, as I'm sure many diabetes bloggers did this week. (Beware annoying audio track when clicking on the link.)
The SugarDown supplement has everything an advertiser going after people with diabetes needs: it's a "new natural dietary supplement (that)... helps people maintain healthy blood sugar levels throughout the day." It's "specifically formulated by one of the world's most premier complex carbohydrate scientists," and it's for those PWDs who are "committed to a balanced diet and exercise." In this supplement, you'll find "naturally-occurring, plant-based mannans (galactomannans) that when combined with a healthy lifestyle and diet have the ability to regulate digestive enzymes which in turn promotes healthy digestion, optimal sugar absorption and supports healthy postprandial glucose levels."
Oh, and don't forget to cue the statistics on how much a world health issue this condition is. Along with a cheesy marketing video that includes the "new scientific breakthrough" line (!)
*Sigh. And face palm.*
This throws the whole thing into a snake oil kind of light.
And here we were all optimistic about a legitimate, scientifically proven chewable tablet that could curb those crazy glucose spikes...
After all, in early October, Boston Therapeutics and CEO Dr. David Platt announced results from their most recent studies of BTI-320 in people with T2D, who also use metformin. Data showed a 40% drop in post-meal glucose levels for 45% of those involved, without any adverse effects.
That research was published right after Boston Therapeutics announced an agreement with Joslin Diabetes Center to begin Phase III research on this chewable tablet, with Dr. George King leading the research there to determine the impact on A1C, post-prandial glucose and fasting glucose levels. That two-year trial should be starting up in Boston in 2015, including up to 360 people at multiple sites.
This solid science just doesn't seem to jibe with the over-hyped supplement they're selling. Reminds me a lot of those African tree bark solution or cinnamon cures we keep hearing about, like the oft-debated Cinsulin that many of us find offensive. And yes, you can buy SugarDown at your local drug or health store for anywhere from $15.99 to $67, depending on whether you want a 10-tabelet vial or starter pack with a 60-tablet bottle.
The connection with both just makes us wonder if we should take BTI-320 seriously.
Here's what Boston Therapeutics' Dr. Platt told us, when asked about the relationship between their products: "The difference lies in the specific requirements mandated by the FDA. The SugarDown formulation is considered a botanical formulation, while BTI-320... has more purity and is considered a drug under GMP guidelines."
Ugh. Not very reassuring.
Am I biased or cynical? Yes, of course. Like all of you, I've been hearing about these "miracle drugs" for decades, ever since being diagnosed with type 1 as a kid.
But despite how SugarDown comes across, the science behind this chewy starch-blocker does seem solid and still peaks my interest. With big diabetes researcher names like Dr. King at Joslin on board, it appears that legitimate medical authorities believe they are onto something valuable.
Still, there is the marketing fail that almost makes me dismiss the science and research. And that's a shame. Hopefully, something beneficial does come from SugarDown and its prescription cousin... and hopefully it doesn't handicap itself with a less-than-appealing name or marketing blitz that makes us question its validity.
What do you all think?