The diabetes epidemic
Currently, 1 in 11 adults are diabetic. By the year 2040, the diabetes population is expected to explode to 642 million, equivalent to 2 times the population of USA. About 90% of diabetics suffer from Type 2 diabetes, which do not have a cure but is entirely preventable by healthy diet and physical activity.
Diabetes is a condition whereby a person has high blood glucose either because they are not able to produce sufficient amounts of insulin, or the body does not respond properly to insulin (insulin resistance). There are different types of diabetes, most common being Type 2 and Type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is caused by an autoimmune reaction, which causes the body to attack its own pancreas and damage the insulin-producing beta cells. The body is no longer able to produce sufficient amounts of insulin, and the person becomes fully dependent on insulin for survival. The onset of T1D is sudden and rare, affecting only about 5% of diabetics.
Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is the most common form of diabetes. Unlike T1D, T2D is a insulin-independent chronic disease arising from excess body weight, poor nutrition and physical inactivity. Many T2D are unaware of their condition for a long time, as the symptoms are less pronounced. In T2D, the muscle cells become resistant to the insulin produced by the body, and the glucose digested from carbohydrates are not able to enter the cells. Instead, they remain the bloodstream, resulting in high blood glucose levels. This is known as insulin resistance. Over time, the body may produce less insulin, and a T2D sufferer may also become dependent on external insulin injections, similar to T1D. The most effective way to manage T2D is to maintain a stable blood glucose level, and the cornerstone of this management is proper and healthy diet and regular physical activity. Despite this, current treatments methods are only limited to medication, and not food solutions.
Alchemy Foodtech's mission is to create food technologies to be incorporated into regular food, so that the foods we eat do not cause diabetes in the first place.
What is Glycemic Index?
Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how fast carbohydrate in the food increases blood glucose levels after eating it. The food is compared to glucose, which has a GI value of 100. The higher the GI of a food, the faster it is able to spike the blood glucose levels after eating it. This is because a high GI food contains easily digestible carbohydrates, which turns quickly to glucose in the bloodstream.
Foods are divided into 3 GI categories:
High GI: 70 and above (e.g. jasmine rice, white bread, mashed potatoes)
Medium GI: 56 to 69 (e.g. brown rice, rye bread, pasta)
Low GI: 55 and below (rolled oats, wheat tortilla, quinoa)
There can be a GI value assigned to every food. It is influenced by the type of carbohydrate (complex vs simple), quantity of protein, fat and fibre present, and also the cooking method.
Unrefined, wholegrain carbohydrates are deemed as "good carbohydrates" as they are lower in GI, and also provide a good source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. Refined white carbohydrates on its own are deemed as "bad carbohydrates" as they are high in GI and stripped of vitamins and minerals after processing.
The cooking and processing method also influences the GI. For example, the GI of boiled potato is 50, while the GI of instant mashed potato is 85. Processing wholegrains also increases their GI, as the dietary fibres present are no longer whole and intact, but instead become fine particles that can easily pass through the digestive tract.