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Diabetes Nutrition Bars and Shakes
What Can They Do for You?

by Patti Geil, MS, RD, FADA, CDE

Cornstarch-based bars retail for about $4 for a four-pack, but volume discounts and free shipping may be available if you order them online through the manufacturer. To see if you like them before ordering a large supply, ask your diabetes care providers if they have any samples for you to try, or just purchase a few at a supermarket or drugstore (Walgreens carries them).

To see what effect a cornstarch-containing product may be having on your blood glucose control, monitor your blood glucose levels, and compare the results on days you use the products to results on days you don’t. As always, check with your diabetes team about the best way to incorporate cornstarch-based bars, shakes, or other products into your diabetes treatment plan.

Resistant starches and fiber
Snack bars and other food products that contain resistant starches and fiber can help to prevent high blood glucose after eating. This is because resistant starches and fibers are incompletely absorbed in the intestine, so they provide less than 4 calories per gram — the amount in “normal” carbohydrates — and have less of an effect on blood glucose level. (In contrast, uncooked cornstarch is slowly, but nearly completely, digested in the small intestine.) Some foods — for example dried beans and whole grains — naturally contain resistant starches. When manufactured resistant starch is added to a food, it is often called “maltodextrin” on the label.

While products containing resistant starch are digested slowly, they are less useful than cornstarch-based bars for preventing nighttime hypoglycemia, because their blood-glucose–raising effects last for only about three hours.

One brand of products that is marketed to people with diabetes and that contains resistant starches is Glucerna. The Glucerna product line includes a variety of sizes and flavors of snack bars, as well as cereals, shakes, and snack shakes with similar formulations.

Researchers have completed several studies to determine the effects of these types of products on people with diabetes. One such study compared the effects of eating a Glucerna bar with those of eating a common breakfast bar (with a similar calorie and nutrient content) in adults with Type 2 diabetes. It showed that blood glucose level rose less after the Glucerna bar than after the common breakfast bar.

Other research comparing diabetes meal and snack bars to standard nutrition bars has also shown that the diabetes bars containing resistant starches produce a smaller change in blood glucose level, both immediately and over the next four hours. The effect of eating Glucerna bars has not been studied in children.

To see what effect one of these bars has on your blood glucose level, check it before eating a bar, then check again one to two hours afterward and again three to four hours afterward. You will get the best information if you eat the bar by itself, with no other food or caloric beverages; otherwise, it will be difficult to sort out the effects of the bar from the effects of the other food or the beverage.

Choosing a resistant starch product
As with any new product you include in your meal plan, take note of the nutrition information marked on the package. Glucerna bars come in two sizes with similar formulations but different nutrient values:

A Glucerna Crisy Delights bar contains 140–150 calories, 20 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber, and 7–8 grams of sugar alcohols. The bar may be helpful for days when you are busy and need something quick and convenient.

A Glucerna mini-snack bar contains 80 calories, 10–12 grams of carbohydrate, less than 1 gram of fiber, and 2–5 grams of sugar alcohols. The mini-snack bar can be used instead of dessert or as a between-meal snack.

Approximate retail prices for Glucerna bars are $4 for a six-pack of the mini-snack size bars. Money-saving coupons are available on the manufacturer’s website. To see if you like them before you buy, check to see if your diabetes educator has samples you can try.

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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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