Natural Extracts to Control Sugar Absorption

By Michael A. Smith, MD

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: The American diet’s biggest culprit is refined sugar...and avoiding it is nearly impossible in this country. Refined sugar, in a variety of forms, is all over our food supply. That’s why it’s important to take steps to ensure that you block most of the sugar from getting into your body in the first place.

And this is where green tea and grape seeds can help out. The nutritional compounds found in both, according to a new study, can actually inhibit the enzymes that break down simple carbohydrates. The result is fewer sugary carbs entering into your body.

Let’s take a look at the study.

Preventing Sugar Spikes by Inhibiting Enzymes

Researchers found that extracts from grape seeds and teas (both white and green) successfully dampened a sugary meal’s impact on blood sugar levels. They did this by inhibiting the enzymes that degrade the simple carbs into their building blocks called monosaccharides.

With fewer monosaccharides available for absorption, there is less of an effect on blood sugar spikes after eating. This is very important because experts agree that a dramatic rise in blood sugar leads to a parallel rise in insulin. The end result is insulin resistance and possibly type 2 diabetes.

However, supplementing with grape seed or tea extracts minimizes the rise in blood sugar by blocking the intestinal enzymes responsible for digesting complex sugars. This means there’s fewer monosaccharides for absorption and, as stated above, less of impact on sugar spikes.

Controlling Amylase & Glucosidase with Plants

The researchers calculated the concentrations required to inhibit 50% and 90% of the activity of the digestive enzymes amylase and glucosidase. They found that grape seed extract strongly inhibited both of the enzymes while tea extracts only showed strong inhibition of the glucosidase enzyme.1

The authors of the study concluded, “Because these plant extracts are well-tolerated, relatively inexpensive and readily available, they have the potential to be used in many applications for glycemic [sugar] control.”

Overall, the research shows that tea extracts containing the antioxidant catechin 3-gallate can inhibit glucosidase while antioxidants found in grape seeds can inhibit both sugar enzymes.

What You Need to Know about Sugar Absorption

Blood sugar spikes are dangerous. Every time sugar rises in your blood, insulin follows suit. Why does insulin rise as well? Because insulin is necessary to transport the sugar inside the cells where it belongs and where it can be utilized to make cell energy.

But the problem is the insulin receptors embedded within the cell’s membrane. They are very sensitive to insulin, and if insulin constantly spikes along with sugar, these receptors become desensitized to the effects of insulin.

When this happens, doctors call this insulin resistance. And here it is: Insulin resistance leads to elevated fasting blood sugar — or what we call diabetes.

So anything that could potentially help you minimize blood sugar spikes, especially in an all-natural way, is something to consider!


  1. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Jun 29. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID:22697360 (


Anonymous said...

Very interesting article! What about the East Indian Herbal Supplement Gymnema Sylvestre? I had thought that I understood it to block common sugars from being absorbed in the intestines, as it is supposed to mock or closely resemble sugar molecules?

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