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New low-GI sugar has received a caning from a leading New Zealand human nutrition specialist.
Prof Jim Mann, of the University of Otago, says the arrival of the world's first all-natural low glycemic index cane sugar in New Zealand is not the answer to the nation's widespread problem with diabetes and obesity.
Chelsea Sugar launched LoGiCane yesterday - a natural cane sugar refined in a way which makes it slower to digest, metabolise and absorb, providing longer-lasting energy and increasing feelings of fullness.
The company claims LoGiCane provides consumers with a healthier choice without compromising on taste or texture.
In a statement from Chelsea New Zealand, Dr Alan Barclay of the Glycemic Index Foundation said replacing white refined sugar with a healthier low GI sugar alternative could have significant benefits for public health.
"A low GI diet can also improve diabetes management and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes."
However, Prof Mann, of the University of Otago's Edgar National Centre for Diabetes Research and a Dunedin Hospital endocrinology consultant, was sceptical about the claims.
Prof Mann said there was no evidence to show LoGiCane sugar would provide any health benefits to New Zealanders, particularly those who had diabetes or were obese.
The product contained the same number of calories as normal sugar, which was one of the main contributors to health problems when consumed in excess, he said.
"It's an interesting bit of science. But it's a very long way from showing it has health benefits.
"It doesn't fit current criteria for claiming health benefit. It's inappropriate."
LoGiCane was developed by Horizon Science, an Australian research and development company, and has been tested and certified by the Glycemic Index Foundation.
It is made from 100% sugar cane grown in Mossman, Queensland, and it is claimed to retain more of the natural antioxidants found in sugar cane.
Horizon Science senior vice-president and global head of research and development Dr Jason Smythe said traditional refining of raw sugar removed the majority of bioactive phytochemicals.
"Retention of these phytochemicals in the sugar reduces the amount of glucose absorption. We have applied the science to effectively retain the best of what nature intended in the sugar."
The product was launched in Australia in March this year, and New Zealand is the first market outside Australia.
- Type 1 and 2 diabetes affects 270,000 New Zealanders.
- Complications from Type 2 diabetes kills 2000 New Zealanders a year.
- The prevalence of diabetes in Maori and Pacific Island populations is almost twice that of other New Zealanders.
- One in five New Zealanders is clinically obese.