Category: Healthy Eating



What You Need to Know about Gestational Diabetes

By: Ashleigh Everitt

Date: August 2017



Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth1,2. It occurs in one in seven pregnancies worldwide3. It can occur at any stage, but seems to be more common in the second half of pregnancy2. The cause of gestational diabetes is thought to be the placenta, which connects your baby to your blood supply and produces high levels of hormones which impair the action of insulin1. This causes blood sugar levels to rise and can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health. Gestational diabetes usually disappears soon after delivery1,2. In some instances, however, it does continue after pregnancy and progresses to type 2 diabetes4.


All women run the risk of developing gestational diabetes, but women with the below risk factors are at a greater risk1,2:

  • Family or personal health history: If you have prediabetes; have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy or if a close family member – such as a parent or sibling – has type 2 diabetes, you are at a higher risk.
  • Over the age of 25 years: If you are over the age of 25, you are at a higher risk.
  • Obesity: If you are significantly overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, you are at a higher risk. To calculate your BMI, divide your weight in kg by your height in meters, squared. e. BMI = weight (kg) ÷ (height)2
  • High birth weight baby: If you have delivered a baby, weighing more than 4.1 kg, you are at a higher risk.
  • Family origins: Women who are South Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern appear to at a higher risk.


Gestational diabetes doesn’t usually cause any severe symptoms. Normally, it is diagnosed when your blood sugar level is tested while screening for gestational diabetes1,2. Symptoms of high blood sugar include increased thirst, a dry mouth, increase urination and tiredness2. But these symptoms are experienced by many pregnant women and they don’t always indicate gestational diabetes.


Most women who have gestational diabetes deliver healthy babies, however management is important. If it is not carefully monitored, it can lead to uncontrolled blood sugar levels and cause problems for you and your baby. Some of the complications for you include1,2:

  • High blood pressure and preeclampsia: Preeclampsia is high blood pressure in women who have previously not experienced high blood pressure before3. It can lead to complications in pregnancy, if left untreated.
  • Increased risk of developing diabetes: You’re more likely to get gestational diabetes again, during a future pregnancy and to develop type 2 diabetes as you get older.

Some of these complications for your baby include1,2:

  • Excessive birth weight: This leads to difficulties during the delivery and increases the likelihood of requiring an induced labour or a caesarean section. It occurs as the extra glucose in your bloodstream crosses the placenta, which triggers your baby’s pancreas to make extra insulin. Insulin is a fat-storing hormone, so extra insulin causes your baby to store more fat and become larger.
  • Early, preterm birth: This refers to giving birth before the 37th week of pregnancy.
  • Respiratory distress syndrome: Babies who are born early often experience respiratory distress, but even babies who are not born early may experience respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Polyhydramnios: Too much amniotic fluid, which is the fluid that surrounds the baby in the womb, can cause premature labour or problems at delivery1.
  • Low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia after birth: This is as a result of the baby’s own increased insulin production.
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity later in life.
  • Loss of your baby: In very severe cases, this can result in a baby’s death either before or shortly after birth.




Now before you start to panic, gestational diabetes can easily be controlled through lifestyle choices such as:


  • Following a healthy and balanced diet: Focusing on including a variety of foods such as whole grain / high fibre / low GI carbohydrates, while avoiding refined carbohydrates and added sugars such in foods like white bread, pasta, sweets, biscuits, cakes and chocolate. Choose lean plant and animal proteins and healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and omega-3 rich fish. Make sure you are getting enough folic acid, calcium, iron and omega-3. Include plenty of water, vegetables and a moderate intake of fruits. Eat regular meals and practise portion control.
  • Regular exercise under the guidance of a health care team: Exercise is beneficial in the management of blood sugar levels as it stimulates your body to move glucose into your cells, where it is used for energy.  It also increases your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, making your body use the insulin more effectively and resulting in less insulin production. It can also help to relieve common discomfort associated with pregnancy such as muscle cramping, back pain, swelling and constipation. Being fit also helps to prepare you for labour and delivery.
  • Medication: If diet and exercise aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe medication to help manage your gestational diabetes.
  • Controlling blood sugar levels: Self-monitoring of your blood sugar levels at least four times a day.
  • Close monitoring of your baby: You will also most likely be monitored by your doctor more closely, especially during your last three months of pregnancy.

Remember everyone is an individual, so consult with a registered dietician who can help you figure out a plan based on your current weight, pregnancy weight gain goals, blood sugar level, exercise habits, food preferences and budget. After you have had your baby, it is still as important to follow a healthy diet and balanced lifestyle as you want to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. It is often daunting and confusing choosing the correct foods. Look out of the Diabetes Association of South Africa (DSA) and Low GI (GIFSA – GI Foundation of South Africa) logos on food products. These logos indicate what foods have been critically analysed and identified as suitable to eat regularly. At FUTURELIFE® we have a range of products that are suitable during pregnancy, we also have products ideal for those living with diabetes as well as gestational diabetes. The most suitable products for you would be:

  • FUTURELIFE® Smart Food™
  • FUTURELIFE® ZERO Smart Food™
  • FUTURELIFE® High Protein LITE SmartBar
  • FUTURELIFE® Smart Drink™
  • FUTURELIFE® Smart Bread™
  • FUTURELIFE® Smart Fibre™ 2in1

For more product information, visit


Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and affects one in seven births worldwide. It is often asymptomatic but can show symptoms common to hyperglycaemia. It can affect anyone but certain factors – such as being over 25 or having a history of diabetes, a BMI of over 30, a baby with a high birth weight baby or a certain ethnicity – increase your risk of developing it. It causes a rise in blood sugar levels, which can result in serious complications for mom and baby. Gestational diabetes can easily be managed by following a healthy, balanced diet that controls blood sugar levels, including regular exercise, medication (if necessary), regular testing of blood sugar levels as well as close monitoring of your baby by a health care professional. Remember that following a healthy diet and having a balanced lifestyle is as important after birth, as you want to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Choose foods that carry the Low GI or DSA logo. Consult with a dietician who will help you figure out a personalised plan to better manage your diabetes.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Gestational diabetes. Available at: (Accessed 14th August 2017)
  2. Gestational diabetes. Available at: (Accessed 14th August 2017)
  3. International Diabetes Federation. IDF Diabetes Altas: 7th Available at: (Accessed 14th August 2017)
  4. Preeclampsia and Eclampsia. Available at: (Accessed 14th August 2017)






Current Trends in Diabetes

By: Ashleigh Smith

Date: May 2017


Diabetes is one of the major chronic diseases affecting our society today, with nearly 422 million people around the world living with Diabetes in 20141. In South Africa, the IDF reported 2.3 million South Africans between the ages of 21 and 79 years are living with Diabetes2.  We all know at least one person with Diabetes and the shocking thing is that there are people out there who don’t even know they have Diabetes.  Due to the burden of Diabetes on the healthcare system a lot of money  is going into research within this field. What this means for us is that there are continuous developments and trends in the industry.


One of the nutritional or diet trends that have been in the media is the effect of Bariatric Surgery and Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCD) in those with living with Diabetes. Bariatric surgery is an operation that is performed to help individuals with severe obesity and other chronic diseases of lifestyle lose weight. It works by restricting both food intake and decreasing the amount of food absorption from the stomach and intestines3. This enables patients to lose weight and decrease their risk for obesity-related diseases3. This surgery is often dangerous and many of these patients are required to implement strict lifestyle changes that result in rapid weight loss beforehand. To help with this, Bariatric surgery patients are often placed on a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) before and after surgery in order to achieve rapid weight loss4.

A Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) is one where energy intake is 1000 calories or less5. To give you an idea of how little this is, the recommended energy intake for the average adult is 2000 calories for women and 2500 calories for men5, however this can be more or less depending on many factors such as age, gender, physical activity or disease state. The VLCD typically involves replacing foods with diet supplements, soups or bars and is followed for a specific period of time e.g. less than 12 weeks5. This is considered an extreme diet and is only done with the help of a doctor and registered dietitian who ensures that the nutritional needs are best met whilst following the diet5.

This VLCD works by reducing the overall size of the liver (through fat loss from the liver), which makes the surgery easier to perform4. Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes are caused by a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity and unhealthy eating2. Long term intake of excess energy or calories from food, causes extra carbohydrate to be converted to fatty acids4. As there are more fatty acids around than usual, fat accumulates in the liver which has a knock on affect causing triglyceride levels in your blood rise4. Due to this, excess fat is sent to all the tissues in the body, including your pancreatic cells4. This build-up of fat interferes with the proper functioning of your pancreatic cells, resulting in insulin resistance, where your cells are unable to use the insulin to transport glucose into your cells therefore causing high blood glucose levels (hyperglycaemia)4. This cycle is switched off by severe calorie restriction when following the VLCD, hence why there is a loss of fat from the liver. As a result insulin resistance and blood glucose management improves even before large changes in body weight occur4.

What does the research say? In one study, authors found that after following a VLCD (600 kcal) fasting blood glucose levels normalised after a week and 7 out of the 10 patient’s Diabetes went into remission at the end of the study6. Another study whereby 29 people who had Type 2 Diabetes for varying durations (2.5 – 12.7 years) were put on a VLCD (624–700 kcal)7. After 8 week there was a significant drop in fasting blood glucose levels with 87% of those who had Diabetes for a short duration (<4 years) vs. 50% of those who had diabetes for a longer duration (> 8 years) going into remission and stopping all medication7.

The biggest changes in glycaemic control in individuals living with Diabetes is seen in patients whom have had bariatric surgery, with research showing that rates of diabetes remission were nearly 90% 10 years after bariatric surgery4. According to the America Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), of 135 000 patients, 90% showed improvements in their type 2 Diabetes by lowering blood glucose levels, reducing the dosage and type of medication required and improving Diabetes-related health problems8.. Seventy eight percent of these individuals went into remission which caused normalised blood glucose levels and eliminated the need for Diabetes medications.8

Both of these methods are showing very promising results in the management of Diabetes, but don’t be fooled they are considered very extreme and not for the faint hearted. Consult with your diabetes health care professional team on effective dietary management of your Diabetes. Visit our website for more nutrition related articles.


Researchers from Korea have unveiled a smart contact lens sensor that can be used to help monitor biomarkers for Diabetes Mellitus, intraocular pressure (IOP) and other health conditions9. Although this concept is not new, numerous studies over the last few decades have shown drawbacks to these lenses due to discomfort of product material and opaque nature of the electrodes9,10. The new smart contact lens sensors are very much improved and use electrodes made of highly stretchable and transparent graphene sheets with metal nanowires that measure glucose levels in tear fluid and IOP (fluid pressure inside the eye) 9,10.   These smart contact lenses require no separate power source and have a wireless antennae, meaning patients are able to transmit their health information allowing for real-time monitoring of their health conditions9,10.


There is new exciting research happening in the field of pancreatic islet cells transplantation11. Researchers have created the first successful tissue-engineered “mini pancreas” that has provided long-term insulin independence in a patient with type 1 Diabetes11. Previously insulin-producing cells had been implanted in the liver but the new research uses the Omentum, which is an apron-like tissue covering abdominal organs. The reason for its success is that it has same blood supply and physiological drainage characteristics as the pancreas and is easily accessed with minimally invasive surgery11. The results thus far have shown that the Omentum appears to be a viable site for islet cell implantation11. This breakthrough surgery will allow many patients to live without the need for insulin injections after receiving a transplant of donor cells. Many patients who have received islet transplants have been insulin independent for more than a decade11.


Researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) are developing a mobile phone app that uses Augmented Reality (AR) to help people with type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure manage their medication12. AR “turns the environment around you into a digital interface by placing virtual objects in the real world, in real-time13.” The reason behind this app is that “A person with Diabetes sometimes has to take, on average, eight medications at the same time including blood sugar-lowering medications, cholesterol-lowering medications, aspirin, anti-depressants/anxiolytics or medications for weight management. AR brings the possibility of using your smartphone to give information on specific medications in a form that is appropriate to each person’s level of understanding in a convenient and timely way” says head researcher Dr Alireza Ahmadvand13. The app will also give people the opportunity to call or message credible diabetes helplines, should they have a question about their medication or side effects13. Their aim is to decrease the complexity and increase medication compliance in people living with both type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure in order to improve the understanding of their conditions13.

So, there you have it, some of the Diabetic trends making waves in the Diabetic community. At FUTURELIFE® we have a variety of products suitable for those living with Diabetes. Try our FUTURELIFE® High Energy, High Protein and ZERO Smart food™ products, all of which can be had as a meal, shake and smoothie, as well as our FUTURELIFE® Smart Drink™ and FUTURELIFE® Smart Bread™, also low GI and endorsed by Diabetes South Africa (DSA).  Visit our website for more interesting articles, recipes and meals to help you manage your diabetes.


Bariatric Surgery & VLCD have been proven to cause Diabetic remission in certain patients which causes normalised blood glucose levels and eliminates the need for Diabetes medications.

Smart Contact Lens: Researchers from Korea have unveiled a smart contact lens sensor using new materials that measure glucose levels in tear fluid and fluid pressure inside the eye. This allows patients to transmit their health information allowing for real-time monitoring of their health conditions.

Pancreatic islet cell transplantation: This breakthrough is the first successful tissue-engineered “mini pancreas” that has achieved long-term insulin independence in a patient with type 1 Diabetes.

Augmented Reality Smartphone app: This allow the possibility of using your smartphone to give information on specific medications for type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure in a form that is appropriate to each person’s level of understanding in a convenient and timely way.













  1. World Health Organisations. Global report on Diabetes (2016). Available at: (Accessed 24th May 2017)


  1. International Diabetes Federation. (2016) IDF Atlas seventh edition (2015) available at: (Accessed 24th May 2017)


  1. News medical Life Science. Bariatric surgery. Available at: (Accessed 24th May 2017)
  2. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (2016) The Use of Very Low Calorie Diets in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Available at: (Accessed 24th May 2017)


  1. Very Low Calorie Diet. Available at: (Accessed 24th May 2017)


  1. Springer Link. (2011) Reversal of type 2 diabetes: normalisation of beta cell function in association with decreased pancreas and liver triacylglycerol available at: 25th May 2017)



  1. Wiley Online Library. (2015) Restoring normoglycaemia by use of a very low calorie diet in long- and short-duration Type 2 diabetes. Available at: (Accessed 25th May 2017)


  1. American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Surgery for Diabetes. Available at: (Accessed 25th May 2017)


  1. Science daily. (2017) Smart contact lens sensor’ for diabetic and glaucoma diagnosis Available at:–+ScienceDaily%29 Accessed: (25th May 2017)


  1. Nature comminications. (2016) Wearable smart sensor systems integrated on soft contact lenses for wireless ocular diagnostics. Available at: (Accessed 25th May 2017)


  1. Science Daily. (2017) Novel tissue-engineered islet transplant achieves insulin independence in type 1 diabetes. Available at:>. (Accessed 25th May 2017)


  1. (2017) Smartphone app set to help people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Available at: (Accessed 26th May 2017) 
  2. How Augmented reality really works. Available at: (Accessed 26th May 2017)

Is sugar safe for individuals living with Diabetes?



Is sugar safe for individuals living with Diabetes?

By: Elizda Hanekom

Date: October 2016



  • 415 million people in the world are living with diabetes. In 2015 there were 2.28 million cases of diabetes(1)
  • Humans are not the only ones who may be living with diabetes, interestingly our furry friends may get it as well. Female dogs and male cats are more likely to develop the condition versus their counterparts(2)
  • Sugar can be found everywhere, it is the building blocks of carbohydrate and is the most abundant type of organic molecules in living things. Researchers have noted that sugar may not be the problem but rather the amount of sugar consumed.(3)

Living with diabetes has many challenges but what makes this condition unlike many others is that it’s something you can manage. Knowing how to manage the condition puts you in control and that is worth a lot. In this article we will look at carbohydrates, sugars and glycaemic index, don’t worry it sounds a lot more complex than what it is.


Sugar is not only delicious but is found in so many foods that it would be impossible to cut out completely without compromising diet quality. People living with diabetes do however need to be careful not to eat too much of the sweet stuff, this doesn’t mean that it’s a completely red tape, stay-away area; rather it means that it should be consumed with caution. Sweets and desserts should be saved for special occasions and seen as a treat. You should rather fill up on more nutritious foods.  If your sweet craving persists, it’s better to fill up on fresh fruit or fruit salad and remember when you do have a treat, you need to keep portions small.

If you are living with diabetes it doesn’t mean that you will never have birthday cake or chocolate again, it just means that you will need to plan for it, a small serving of your favourite treat once in a while is fine as long as it’s planned to ensure you manage your diabetes.

  • Sugars and carbohydrates

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate found in different foods and drinks. When carbohydrates are broken down, they provide our bodies with glucose, which is our main energy source. Sugars are often naturally found in food or may be added to food to add a different taste or texture. Naturally sugar can be found in fruit, a few vegetables, milk and yoghurt. (4) Sugar is added to many different processed foods, coffee, tea, breakfast cereals, baked goods, ready-made meals, flavoured yoghurt, condiments and sauces. (4)

  • Does sugar cause Diabetes?

Many people think that diabetes is caused by sugar, this myth is however complicated. Type 1 Diabetes has nothing to do with the amount of sugar eaten but the disease is rather triggered by many unknown factors where genetics can also play a role. (5)

Being overweight is one of the main risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes and having a diet high in calories from any source will result in weight gain. (5) Research has however shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to developing type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends that individuals limit their intake of sugar sweetened drinks to help prevent diabetes. (5)

  • Can sugar fit in my diet if I’m living with diabetes?

In previous years people living with diabetes were advised to completely avoid sugar. These days research has shown that the type of carbohydrate does affect how quickly blood glucose levels increase but also that the total amount of carbohydrates eaten affects blood glucose levels more than the type. (5) As a general rule we should all be eating less sugar but that doesn’t mean that it cannot fit into your diet. Today experts agree that you may substitute small amounts of sugar for other carbohydrate foods into your eating plan and still keep your blood glucose levels under control as long as a healthy, balanced diet is followed.

Sugar can therefore be included in moderation, we always need to remember that a balanced, healthy diet that includes a variety of healthy foods such as vegetables, beans, whole-grains, fruit, low-fat dairy, fish and lean meats is recommended.  Carbohydrate distribution is of utmost importance to ensure blood glucose levels stay on track. (1) So if you want to substitute sugar for one of your carbohydrates make sure you are eating the right portion.  If you are overweight it is strongly advised that you lose weight in order to improve how your body regulates your blood sugar. Physical activity will also assist in weight loss as well as weight maintenance and is strongly advised.


  • What is Glycaemic Index?

According to Harvard Health publications, (6) Glycaemic Index (GI) is a value assigned to different carbohydrate-containing foods based on how fast or slow these foods increase blood glucose levels.  Therefore foods with a high GI would indicate that the food increases blood glucose quickly and low GI increases blood glucose slower, therefore aim for low GI food products which keep you fuller for longer. The following FUTURELIFE® products are all low GI:  FUTURELIFE® HIGH ENERGY Smart Food™, FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN Smart Food™, FUTURELIFE® ZERO Smart Food™, FUTURELIFE® Smart Drink™, and FUTURELIFE® Smart Bread™ both White and Brown.


  • How do I decrease my sugar intake?

The following tips may help you include sugar in your diet, while keeping it in moderation: (7)

  • Fruit is a better snack vs. chocolate bars, cakes and biscuits
  • A few squares of dark chocolate for those times that chocolate is the only thing that will do
  • Have plain low fat yogurt with mixed nuts and fruit vs. sweetened options
  • Try cutting down on sugar you use in your recipes, most recipes work out just as well
  • Try replacing sugar with safe artificial sweeteners such as sucralose
  • Try low calorie, light and zero options for fizzy drinks
  • Where possible, cook from scratch, that way you know exactly what you are eating
  • Compare the sugar and fat content on food labels and also look at the ingredients list as they always start with the main ingredients first.



So sugar can fit into the diet of a person living with diabetes, as long as caution is taken when you have it. If your blood glucose levels are all over the place and uncontrolled it is obviously first priority to get that under control and rather enjoying your occasional treats once stabilised. Therefore always try your best to make wise, healthful decisions and treat yourself once in a while.




1. Internatonal Diabetes Federation. [Online].; 2016 [cited 2016 October 03. Available from:
2. Devlin M. Listverse: 10 Curious Facts About Diabetes. [Online].; 2013 [cited 2016 October 03. Available from:
3. Briscoe ACUF12AJ12. “Don’t Believe Everything You Hear about ‘Sugar.’” CNN. [Online].; 2014 [cited 2016 August 11. Available from:
4. Canada D. Practise Evidence Based Nutrition. [Online].; 2016 [cited 2016 August 11. Available from:
5. American Diabetes Association. [Online].; 2013 [cited 2016 October 03. Available from:
6. Harvard Health Publications. [Online].; 2015 [cited 2016 October 04. Available from:
7. Diabetes UK: Myth: Sugar Causes Diabetes. [Online].; 2016 [cited 2016 October 4. Available from:




Sweeteners and Sugar Alternatives for People Living With Diabetes



Sweeteners and Sugar Alternatives for People Living With Diabetes

By: Ashleigh Smith

Date: September 2016


The need for sweetness is said to be innate, however people differ in their preference for sweetness as well as how sweetness is perceived. 1 Our preference for intensity of sweetness changes depending on the stage in our lifecycle. During infancy our need for sweetness is at its highest, it declines in adolescence and then plateaus or slowly declines in young adulthood, and may or may not decline further in old age.3 Today however, most of us are consuming way too much added sugar. Much of the sugars consumed today are “hidden” in processed foods3 such as sauces, sugar sweetened foods and beverages and consumers are often not aware of the sugar content of these foods. The WHO recommends that adults and children reduce their daily intake of free (added) sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. This guideline however does not refer to intrinsic or natural sugars found in fresh fruits, vegetables and milk.2


People living with Diabetes have to be extra careful with the amount of sugar and carbohydrates that they are consuming due to their effect on blood sugar levels. For those who struggle with cutting out this sweetness, the use of sweeteners in foods and drinks is great way to help curb your cravings for something sweet without the calories and effect on blood sugar levels.1,3,4


Sweeteners are divided into 2 categories, Nutritive and Non-Nutritive. Nutritive Sweeteners include sugars and sugar alcohols while Non-Nutritive Sweeteners (NNS) include artificial sweeteners.1,3,4




Nutritive Sweeteners contain carbohydrates and provide energy, they are often referred to as sugars, caloric sweeteners and added sugars.  Nutritive Sweeteners provide 4 kcal per gram1,3,4 and they are found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables and dairy.

Examples include:1,3,4

Sugars Sources
Glucose Primary source of energy for body cells.
Fructose Found in fruit, honey, and some vegetables.
Galactose occurs in dairy products and some plants
Sucrose Occurs naturally in fruit & vegetables.
Maltose found in molasses & used for fermentation
Agave Nectar .-
Corn based sweeteners Corn






In their natural state, sugars from fruit, vegetables and milk can be included daily.1,2,4, That being said it is still important to consider how much carbohydrate you are eating at once. Avoid consuming excessive amounts of sugar by cutting out these sources of added/or natural sugar and substitute them with sugar alcohols or Non-Nutritive Sweeteners.



Sugar alcohols or polyols are also classified as Nutritive Sweeteners, they can be found in nature, but are manufactured from mono- or polysaccharides.1 They are typically absorbed slower as well as incompletely and provide an average of 2 kcal per gram.1,4 Examples include:

  • Erythritol
  • Xylitol
  • Mannitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Isomalt
  • Lactitol
  • Maltitol
  • D – Tagatose.1,4


The use of these sugar alcohols as sweetening agents has become very popular over the last few years. Polyols can be used alone or more often in combination with other polyols or Non-Nutritive Sweeteners because of their bulking property in foods.1 Foods that contain polyols as well as no added sugars can be labelled as sugar-free. The use of sugar alcohols appears to be safe however some e.g. Mannitol and Sorbitol have been known to cause gastrointestinal side effects, especially in children, such as bloating, diarrhoea and cramps.4 Their use has also been shown to reduce the risk of dental caries.4




Non-Nutritive Sweeteners (NNS) are different to Nutritive Sweeteners as they offer little to no energy.1,5 Other names for NNS include artificial sweeteners, very low-calorie sweeteners, non-caloric sweeteners or intense sweeteners.1 NNS’s are many times sweeter than sucrose and are used to replace the sweetness of sugar in foods.1,5 They however do not have the same functional properties as sugar such as browning or crystallization.1 NNS when substituted for Nutritive Sweeteners, may help consumers limit carbohydrate and energy intake as a strategy to manage blood glucose or weight.1


There are currently six U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Non-Nutritive Sweeteners, these are:1,4,5

  1. Acesulfame potassium (also called acesulfame K)
  2. Aspartame
  3. Saccharin
  4. Sucralose
  5. Neotame


The NNS’s commonly used in South Africa include Acesulfame Potassium K, Aspartame, Saccharin, Sucralose and Stevia. Stevia and Luo Han Guo fruit extracts have been given a Generally Recognised as Safe (GRAS) status.  Neotame and Advantame are not commonly available in South Africa. See the table below for more information on these Non-Nutritive Sweeteners.1,4,5

Non- Nutritive Sweetener Sweetness compared to sugar Information & examples Number of Table top Sweetener Packets Equivalent to Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI)
Saccharin 200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar e.g. naTreen Classic

– One of the oldest NNS

– Used in beverages, fruit juice drinks, Sugar substitute for cooking or table use, in processed foods.

– Not metabolized in the body

– Heat stable

– Previously thought it was linked to cancer risk, 30 human studies disproved this and concluded it to be safe for human consumption.

– ADI: 15 mg per kg body weight

– EDI: 0.1-2 mg per kg body weight


(approved 1981 & 1983)

200 times sweeter  than sugar e.g. Canderel, EquiSweet Classic, Equal

– General use sweetener (any food or beverage).

– Provides 4 kcal / g however a small amount used to achieve desired sweetness

– Not heat stable & loses its sweetness when heated

– Contains phenylalanine

– More than 100 studies supporting its safety

–  ADI: 50 mg per kg Body weight

–  EDI: 0.2 – 4.1  per kg Body weight

Acesulfame potassium / Ace-K

(approved 1988)

200 times sweeter than sugar e.g. Huletts Sugarlite, Canderel,  Selati sweetner, Equal

– Used as general purpose sweetener and flavour enhancer in  food, except meat & poultry

– Heat stable – useful in baking

– More than 90 studies support its safety.

– ADI: 15 mg per kg body weight

– EDI: 0.2 – 1.7 mg per kg Body weight


(approved 1998 & 1999)

600 times sweeter than sugar. e.g. Selati Sucralose low kiloJoule sweetener, Splenda, Canderel with Sucralose (yellow), EquiSweet Sucralose

– General purpose sweetener that can be found in a variety of foods

– Heat stable – useful in baking

– 110 studies showing safety

– ADI: 5 mg per kg body weight

–  EDI: 0.1 –  2.0 mg per kg body weight

Stevia or steviol glycosides 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar. e.g. EquiSweet Stevia, Canderel Green with Stevia

– Steviol glycosides-rebaudioside A & stevioside are extracted from leaves of Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni

– GRAS status (Generally Recognised as safe)

– ADI: 4mg per kg body weight

– EDI: 1.3-3.4 mg per kg body weight


(Approved 2002)

7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar – General purpose sweetener and flavour enhancer in foods (except in meat and poultry)

– Heat stable – useful in baking

–  ADI: 18 mg per kg Body weight

–  EDI: 0.05-0.17 mg per kg body weight


(approved 2014)

20,000 times sweeter than table sugar – General purpose sweetener and flavour enhancer in foods (except in meat and poultry)

– Heat stable – useful in baking

– 37 studies showing safety

– ADI: 32.8 mg per kg body weight

Luo Han Guo fruit extracts 100 to 250 times sweeter than sugar No known product

–  From Siraitia grosvenorii  or Swingle fruit extract (SGFE) otherwise known as Monk fruit

– Table top sweetener, food ingredient, component of other sweetener blends

– GRAS status

– ADI: not determined





Regarding NNS’S and cancer risk, there has always been a concern that the use of certain artificial sweetener causes cancer. In the 1970’s Saccharin in very high doses was found to cause bladder cancer in rats and products with saccharin had to be labelled with a warning.5 Since then more than 30 human studies have concluded that the results found in rats were not relevant to humans and the label warning has since been removed.5


Cyclamate is banned in the USA as studies in rats showed very high doses caused bladder tumours, further research has not been able to show that cyclamate is carcinogenic in humans.1,6 Cyclamates aren’t sold as tablets in South Africa anymore, but they can be found in some sugar-free and diabetic products. So make sure you read your labels.


In 2009, the National Cancer Institute changed their position statement on NNS’S to state that there is no clear evidence that the NNS available commercially in the United States are associated with cancer risk in human beings.1,4,6 The Cancer association of South Africa (CANSA) have mixed views regarding sweeteners but state that those NNS approved In Europe and the USA (stevia, acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose) have been extensively researched and found to be safe if taken in the Acceptable daily intakes (ADI).


The American Diabetes Association stated in 2008 that “Sugar alcohols and non-nutritive

Sweeteners are safe when consumed within the daily intake levels” set by the FDA.4 You need to consider the Acceptable daily intake (ADI) as well as Estimated daily intake (EDI) when looking at NNS (all of which are listed in the table above).1,3 For most NNS it is difficult to reach the ADI as you would have to consume extremely large amounts. For example to consume the ADI for Aspartame, you would have to eat 75 sachets /packets per day, which is highly unlikely. If you look at something like stevia whose ADI and EDI are of similar, this means that you will reach your ADI with consuming less. 9 packets/sachets of Stevia per day (depending on brand and its concentration) puts you close to the ADI for Stevia. Therefore it is recommended to alternate between different brands and be conscious about the total amount you are having throughout the day. If you have more questions on sweeteners, please chat to your dietitian or diabetic nurse educator.




At FUTURELIFE® we use a combination of carefully researched and internationally recognised sweeteners in our relevant products. FUTURELIFE® ZERO and FUTURELIFE® ZERO with OATS contain no added cane sugar.  Instead of using cane sugar to sweeten these products, they have been formulated with Smart Sweetness which is a combination of Stevia, Erythritol and Sucralose.


For more information on any of our products or other interesting articles and recipes, please visit our website



  1. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners
  3. Nonnutritive Sweeteners: Current Use and Health Perspectives : A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association
  5. FDA High intensity sweeteners

Cheating On Your Diet? Let’s Look At Ways To Stop!




Cheating On Your Diet? Let’s Look At Ways To Stop!

By: Elizda Hanekom

Date: July 2016



  • The human mind is the strongest “muscle,” a strong mind can help you overcome any obstacle (1)
  • Research has shown that weight-loss and weight gain can be socially contagious(2)
  • To lose 0.5 to 1 kg per week you need to cut 500-1000 calories per day (3)


I once heard the saying “Willpower is like a muscle, it needs to be challenged to build itself,” this shows that things worth having do not come easy and staying focused is really important in achieving ones goals. When it comes to weight-loss, having the self-determination and drive can be the most challenging of it all, making great choices day in and day out is what counts. Difficulties to stay on track and delicious temptations will always be around, here are a few tips and tricks to help you from “craving” in.


Figure 1: The Choice is yours (6)










  • Track your success

Keeping a food journal and doing daily weights have both proven to help people stay invested in their weight-loss journey. A study in the Annals of Behaviour Medicine (4)  has showed that people who did daily weights and wrote this down, lost more weight. This helps one place focus on what has been achieved and how far you have come instead of dwelling on what’s been done wrong. Doing the following will help boost ones motivation in the long run.

  • Get enough sleep

Aim to sleep 8 hours a night, too little as well as too much sleep has shown to influence hunger related-hormones that control appetite. Sleep deprivation leads to a:

  • increase in Ghrelin levels (this hormone says yes, eat more)
  • decrease in Leptin levels (this hormone says no, you are full)
  • increase in Cortisol (this hormone increases your appetite) (5)

An altered appetite will lead to significant weight gain, therefore tuck in and stay well-rested.

  • Keep healthy snacks

It’s easier to stay in control of one’s diet when you have readily available healthy snacks at hand. (6) Keep your handbag and desk stocked with healthy options such as fruits, nuts and bars (FUTURELIFE® High Protein LITE Smart bar). Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time, if you know it is going to be a busy day at work filled with meetings, have on-the-go options on hand

  • Brush your teeth

Have you ever tried orange juice after brushing your teeth, not very pleasant at all, this is the case for many foods. Brushing your teeth often will help control your cravings. Most people can stick to their diets well until late afternoon, at this time when you feel like you’re on the verge of going out of control have a healthy snack and then brush your teeth, after dinner is also a time to watch out for those sugar cravings, having sugar-free chewing gum, a cup of green tea or brushing your teeth may help keep your diet intact.

  • Face your reflection

“Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all?” When having a so-called “fat” day we would surely want to avoid mirrors. Turns out we should actually be doing the complete opposite. Research posted in the International Journal of Eating Disorders (7)  found that mirror-exposure therapy (checking one’s body out) can help improve the way we feel about our bodies and in turn help keep us committed to eating healthy. Positive self-talk can also help keep you motivated.

  • Group-focused exercise

Join a group class, many classes are offered at gyms; alternatively find something outside of gym. Many people are enjoying pilates, hot-pod yoga or running groups, these classes help keep you in shape but also have a fun-factor to exercise. Making friends and becoming a regular will help inspire you to attend classes. The guilt factor has always proved to help, in a place where people call you by name they will know when you have missed a workout.

  • Get pumped up with rocking tunes

Research has shown that women who listened to music whilst exercising were more likely to stick to their exercise programme than those without music. Get beats that make you excited about exercising. Don’t know where to start looking, thankfully Google has many sites where people post playlists that they enjoy using when exercising.


  • Get a network of support

Dieting is not as easy as 1, 2, 3. Having support is one of the most important factors. Knowing you have people backing you can really help keep you motivated to keep going, you also feel more accountable for your actions. Inform family and friends about your diet and goals, ask them to help you. Having someone do the diet with you or join in on exercise will also help greatly.  Remember people can help be the key to success BUT may also create your biggest obstacles, there will always be someone trying to tempt you by bringing delicious treats to work or mocking you about your diet, don’t let this get into your head. You are able to do whatever you set your mind to. Prove these people wrong.


Following the tips above should help keep you on the right track. Always remember that with weight loss and healthy living there is no quick fix, it takes hard work, determination and dedication to lose weight, don’t give up too quickly, great results take time. A healthy lifestyle is about making great choices for yourself every day and when slipping up, rather focus on what’s been achieved instead of what hasn’t. It’s less about now and more about then, healthy living is all about lifestyle changes.




1. Santel R. Food Challenge. [Online].; 2015 [cited 2016 July 26. Available from:
2. Christakis , Fowler J. Is obesity socially contagious? New England Journal of Medicine. 2008 July; 1(1).
3. Cespedes. Livestrong. [Online].; 2016 [cited 2016 July 26. Available from:
4. Linde J, Jeffery R, Pronk N, Boyle S. Self-weighing in weight gain prevention and weight loss trials. Annals of Behaviour Medicine. 2014 2016; 3(30).
5. Breus MJ. Psychology Today. [Online].; 2011 [cited 2016 July 26. Available from:
6. Ratledge. Health. [Online].; 2015 [cited 2016 July 26. Available from:,20448017,00.html#don-t-dump-snacks-0.
7. Delinsky SS, Terence G. Mirror exposure for the treatment of body image disturbance. International Journal on Eating Disorders. 2011 2016; 39(2).




  1. Health. [Online].; 2015 [cited 2016 July 26. Available from:,20448017,00.html#don-t-dump-snacks-0.


Can apps help us to lose weight?



Can apps help us to lose weight


By Jessica Haworth

Date: 01/2016


Weight loss is certainly no new concept however, the way we can approach it has changed over the years especially now with technology at our finger tips. Technology could be blamed for making society more lazy, less active and staying indoors; but if used right it could actually help us. If one types in ‘weight loss’ into any online app store there are streams and streams of results. We will try help you to see what’s out there and how to determine if it’s good or not.


Types of apps

There may be many types of apps but most of them generally will vary by focusing on one or more of the following:1

  • Daily weight loss tips
  • Weight loss recipes
  • Exercise programs
  • BMI calculator
  • Calorie counters
  • Exercise trackers
  • Diet plans


Examples of apps 1,2,3,4

As one could stroll for a long time on the app store with the vast amounts of apps it is challenging to try give advice of what apps to use as there are just too many. Below are a few we looked at.


App name Logo Platform Cost Features and review Rating
FatSecret iPhone & Andriod Free We found this easiest to use with the most application for South Africans including many products even the new FUTURELIFE® SmartDrink. It is easy to use and understand. 4.3 / 5
MyFitnessPal iPhone & Andriod Free This app is well known for its easy to use interface and ability to monitor your diet. Upon downloading, this app guides a new user nicely on how to use the app step by step assisting in quickly being able to use the app. SA products are listed with accuracy including the complete FUTURELIFE® range. 4.6 / 5
Calorie counter PRO MyNetDiary iPhone & Andriod Free There are many options and functions from entering a food diary, exercise, extra notes and more. However, the main flaw is that it does not offer SA products so this makes the food diary inaccurate and so not the best option. 4.4 / 5
FitBit iPhone & Andriod Free The app is fairly easy to use however the food diary lets this one down. The exercise tracking being linked with ones FitBit device leads it be very accurate and efficient. The food diary doesn’t have many SA products and not many add-on’s like others. 3.9 / 5
Nike+ Running iPhone & Andriod Free This one is popular more for exercise than dieting. It has an easy to use interface which helps you track your exercise using GPS. It also has helpful exercise challenges or coaches to aid you to lose weight. 4.4 / 5



Rate them yourself

As there are so many apps let’s think how we can practically assess them for yourself to see how good they are.

  • Just because you have to pay for it doesn’t mean that it is better quality
  • It should be easy to read and easy to use for the average consumer
  • How much detail does it contain?
  • How accurate and precise is it? Does it ask you to estimate how many grams of bread or pasta you used instead of guiding you what a serving would be?
  • Is it applicable in SA? Most apps are developed overseas which means in the food lists there are many products that aren’t applicable here and then not useful. However, some apps allow you to scan products or add in the nutritionals if it’s not in its library which is better.
  • Be careful of the goals you can set. Most apps allow you to choose how much weight you want to lose and by when. If you are not aware of what is healthy, realistic and safe you may try be lose too much too quickly and harm yourself


Hold caution

Be careful that not all apps are written by professionals. Anyone can develop one and post it. This may mean that not all of them use sound and correct information and won’t have professional experience behind it. It is advisable to still see a local dietician, doctor and personal trainer for their expert advice and guidance.


Apps are often quite generalised and won’t address your own unique needs and habits. Weight loss tips, plans and education should not be given as a blanket statement for all people. The best results are shown when plans are individualised according to your current diet, history, culture, economic status, location and more. Visiting a local dietician will help you individualise weight loss and be happier following the plan.



Apps are an incredible development of technology and why not take advantage of them to help with weight loss. It has been seen that people who self monitor themselves as such with apps have a greater awareness of habits and so this aids behaviour change.3 Explore what is out there but use our advice for filtering what’s good or not. In the end still visit your local dietician to help you really effectively lose weight the way that’s right for you.



  1. Android play store
  3. Gilmore LA, Duhé AF, Frost EA, Redman LM. The Technology Boom: A New Era in Obesity Management. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology: 2014, Vol. 8(3) 596–608


Futurelife Products Related to this article:

  • All Futurelife products

Exercise and Type I Diabetes: It is possible



Exercise and Type I Diabetes: It is possible

By Bridget Lamont

Date: March 2015


It should not come as a surprise to anyone that regular physical activity promotes numerous health benefits and the same applies to those living with diabetes. However those diagnosed with this disease, particularly Type I Diabetes, need to be aware of the potential variation in the blood sugar control during and after exercise. Intense physical activity combined with exogenous insulin could cause blood sugars to drop dangerously low (known as hypoglycaemia). It is important not only to be aware of this danger, but also to be prepared for it.

Different types and intensities of physical activity can cause blood sugar to drop or rise outside of the recommended range of 4 – 8.5mmol/l. This could potentially cause unwanted health outcomes if not controlled with the correct insulin doses. In short duration, high intensity sports (such as swimming races or sprints) causes your insulin requirements to sometimes increase. This is because your body spills glucose from the liver through the stress hormone release during exercise, potentially causing hyperglycaemia. On the contrary, contracting muscles can also absorb some glucose without the need for insulin and post-exercising muscles have improved insulin sensitivity, which could lead to hypoglycaemia.

Therefore insulin doses need to be carefully worked out before and after exercise. When it comes to the use and dosage of insulin, it is best to discuss this with your doctor. It is generally advised to inject into non-exercising muscles (e.g. avoid injecting into the legs for runners and the arms for swimmers) for enhanced effects of the insulin.

The fear of hypoglycaemia is probably the leading fear when it comes to diabetes and exercise. Common signs of hypoglycaemia include dizziness, shaking, feeling hungry or confused. Some people become pale and severe hypoglycaemia can lead to seizures, a coma or even worse.

At this stage you might be thinking to yourself, “is this actually worth it?”. The answer to this question is unequivocally YES. Many elite and well-known athletes compete at the highest level of sport with Type I Diabetes, including those in the fields of cycling, swimming, running and many more. The important thing to remember is that with adequate management and proper planning, these sports can be performed just as well as someone not living with diabetes.






If exercise will last for 30 minutes or less, there is usually no need to snack before the time. If however you are planning to exercise for 60 – 90 minutes, it is a good idea to have a small carbohydrate snack one hour beforehand. It is definitely advised to check your blood glucose levels before you start exercising. If it is high (> 10mmol/L or more) there is no need to snack. If it is too low (i.e. < 4mmol/L) rather refrain from performing physical activity. If you are planning to exercise for more than 90 minutes, your muscle glycogen stores will become depleted and it is therefore necessary to take in more carbohydrates. See the table below for some great ideas of pre-exercise snacks.

Blood Glucose Levels Snack Ideas
< 6mmol/L Have 50g of carbohydrates i.e. 3 portions, which includes:

– 1 whole wheat sandwich (with protein) and 1 fruit

– 75 g of FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN Smart Food™ and 250 ml of milk

– 1 FUTURELIFE®  HIGH ENERGY Smartbar and 1 fruit

– 50g of FUTURELIFE®  Smart Oats and 250ml milk

7-10mmol/L Have 15 – 25g Low GI carbohydrates (1-2 portions), which includes:

– 1 large fruit

– 1 sandwich (with protein)

– 50g FUTURELIFE®  HIGH PROTEIN Smart Food™ with 250ml Milk

– 20g of FUTURELIFE®  HIGH ENERGY Smart Food™  with water


10-15mmol/L No Snack is needed before commencing exercise
> 15mmol/L Do not exercise


During exercise:

If the exercise session will be lasting for more than 90 minutes, you should aim to have 30 – 60g of High GI carbohydrate every hour. Your body can only absorb glucose at a maximum rate of 1g per minute, so anything more than 60g per hour will not be absorbed adequately. Examples of 30g of High GI carbohydrate include 1 ½ FUTURELIFE® HIGH ENERGY Smartbar, 400ml of Energy Drink (Energade) or 6 wine gums.

Post Exercise:

If you have exercised for more than 60-90 minutes you should have a recovery drink or meal within ½ an hour to one hour of finishing that exercise. You will need sufficient carbohydrates for the prevention of delayed hypoglycaemia, which happens due to the improved insulin sensitivity of the exercised muscled and thus increased uptake of glucose. For the post exercise recovery meal, a combination of carbohydrates and lean protein in a ratio of 4:1 is generally recommended.  An example of this is 75g of FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN Smart Food™ mixed with low fat milk.

As you can see exercising with Type I Diabetes is not as complicated as people make it seem and it might take some extra effort around planning, but it is totally worth it and the benefits truly outweigh the risks.



Breast Is Best, Even If Mom Has Diabetes



Breast Is Best, Even If Mom Has Diabetes

By: Ashleigh Smith

Date: June 2015


After birth your body is busy adapting to the shock of giving birth to your precious baby, and for most moms this is usually a time of sleep deprivation, uncertainty and adaption while you are getting used to the routine of having your baby at home. For moms with diabetes the experience is often intensified, as the first few weeks can either be pure bliss with controlled blood sugar levels or a worrying period of uncontrollable ups and downs.

Whether you have type 1, 2 or gestational diabetes, it is recommended that you breastfeed your baby, as breastmilk is the best source of nutrition, designed by Mother Nature. The benefits of breastmilk are not only experienced by your baby, but as a mother there are numerous health benefits for you too.

Breast milk contains all the essential nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water, in the correct combination to give your baby the nourishment they need for the first six months of life. It is easily digested and produced to meet the needs of your growing baby. Breastmilk is packed full of immune boosting antibodies, that helps to build your babies developing immune system. Breast fed babies have a decreased risk of developing ear infections, asthma, respiratory illnesses, infant sudden death syndrome and diarrhoea. It is also known that breastfed babies often have fewer trips to the doctor and decreased length of hospital stays. The risk of your baby developing obesity and hypertension later in life is also reduced.

Breastfeeding not only has benefits for your baby but also for you as a mother. Losing your pregnancy weight has been known to be one of the biggest challenges moms struggle with. Breastfeeding your baby helps you to lose the weight you picked up during pregnancy. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of developing obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer of the breast, uterus and ovaries. It also helps you to recover quicker from childbirth and reduces uterine bleeding after delivery. Breastfeeding has been known to help with relaxation, stress relief and is indeed a special time for bonding between you and your little one.

Diabetic mothers are advised to breastfeed their babies exclusively for at least 6 months. Exclusive breastfeeding according to the WHO (2015) means that the “infant receives only breast milk. No other liquids or solids are given, not even water, with the exception of oral rehydration solution, drops/syrups of vitamins, minerals or medicines.” Breastfeeding can make your blood sugar levels very difficult to predict as while you nurse your body uses the glucose from your blood. It is important to keep track of your diabetes by monitoring your diet, exercise and medication.

Most medications, whether you take insulin or oral blood glucose-lowering medications, can be used safely while breastfeeding, but it’s important to chat to your doctor or dietician. If you are currently taking glucose lowering medication, it is important to be aware of hypoglycaemia and its symptoms.

Insulin plays a role in the production of breast milk, which may initially affect your ability to produce milk. It may take one or two days longer than the usual, three to four days, for your milk to come in. The rate of milk production many also be slightly reduced but this can be easily corrected by ensuring your diabetes is under control and ensuring the correct latching and positioning while you nurse. The more your baby breastfeeds, the more breastmilk will be produced. Diabetic mothers are at more of a risk of developing thrush and mastitis, therefore looking after your nipples and ensuring your breasts are drained after each feed is vital for good breast health.

Sticking to the habits that helped you control your blood glucose levels during pregnancy is important as these are tried and tested. Include regular meals and snacks according to your treatment regime. Low blood sugar levels are a real danger for diabetic moms as you may skip meals or snacks due to sleep deprivation, lack of routine and stress. Ensuring you have something to eat before you nurse will prevent dips in blood glucose levels. This meal should contain a combination of lean protein and wholegrain carbohydrates. An example could be:

  • Whole-wheat or Low GI seed bread with smoked chicken, lettuce and tomato
  • FUTURELIFE® Smart Food,
  • FUTURELIFE® High Protein

Make sure you have a snack on hand just in case you feel your blood sugar dropping, so you don’t have to interrupt a feed to get up.

Make sure you drink enough fluids, and steer clear of caffeine and alcohol containing drinks. Alcohol intake while breastfeeding can decrease your milk let down reflex and increases your chance of hypoglycemia if insulin is part of your treatment regime.

One of the most important points and it’s something that moms often forget…by taking good care of yourself will ensure you are able to look after your baby. Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience for both you and your baby, with numerous short and long term health benefits, but it isn’t always possible. Talk to your doctor or dietician about the best feeding option for you.



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Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cinnamon

By: Ashleigh Smith

Date: May 2016


Cinnamon is one of those ingredients that has been around for centuries. It is a well-known spice that has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It is a spice that is made from the inner bark of trees called Cinnamomum. There are two main types of cinnamon; Cinnamomum zeylanicum and Cinnamon cassia. Cinnamonum cassia is the most common variety today and generally what we refer to as cinnamon. Each varietal has a different chemical composition explaining their differences in pharmacological effects. The main ingredients that give cinnamon its beneficial effects include vital oils and other derivatives, such as cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid, and cinnamate. Cinnamaldehyde, is the key ingredient that gives cinnamon its flavour and smell but also its medicinal properties.


Blood glucose control & improved insulin sensitivity

This is one of the most researched benefits of cinnamon. When searching on google, there are numerous articles that state studies that show the beneficial effect of cinnamon, however if you dig a little deeper and look at research from journals and evidence based nutrition organisations, these effects are hard to prove. There has been some evidence to show that cinnamon bark extracts may be useful in the control of blood glucose, as it slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract. In a paper on Cinnamon and Health by Gruenwald et al (2010), they reviewed evidence that when cinnamon was ingested at a dose of < 1.5 g they found no statistically significant blood glucose control. However when subjects consumed 3 to 6 g, more positive effects were found.

Medagama (2015) conducted a review of clinical trials and found an improvement in glycaemic control was seen in patients who received cinnamon as the sole therapy for diabetes, those with pre-diabetes (IFG or IGT) and in those with high pre-treatment HbA1c. They also concluded that more long term studies need to be done in those as evidence is inconclusive.

Leach et al (2012) conducted a systematic review on all studies up until 2012 that assessed cinnamon intake, all species, in type 1 and type 2 diabetics. After assessing 577 participants, from 10 randomised control trials, they concluded that “there is insufficient evidence to support the use of cinnamon in type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus”. This view is supported by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and PEN (Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition). This being said, one teaspoon of cinnamon powder weighs approximately 1.5 g, so including 2 -3 tsp. of cinnamon in your diet wouldn’t be too difficult and could be used as a potential add-on therapy when managing type 2 diabetes. 1,2,4,5,8

Anti-bacterial & anti-fungal properties

Another one of cinnamon’s health benefits includes its ability to help fight various kinds of infection. It has been reported that cinnamon oils have natural antimicrobial effects against different bacteria, fungus and yeast species.1  They also found that when cinnamon oil was combined with clove oil, this effect was further enhanced.4

Antioxidant properties

When looking at the antioxidant properties of cinnamon, it was concluded in a comparative study among 26 spices, that cinnamon showed the highest antioxidant activity.1,2,9 When an extract of C. Cassia was compared to the natural antioxidant vitamin E, results in animal studies proved that cinnamon had better antioxidant properties 9 Most of the studies done on cinnamon’s antioxidant activity were done on animals but these trials show promise.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Several studies on medicinal plants and their components have indicated that cinnamon has various anti-inflammatory activities within the body.  This anti-inflammatory effect has been shown with an extract of C. Cassia.1, 4, 5

Cholesterol- and Lipid-Lowering properties

This effect was proven in one study by Khan et al (2003). They demonstrated in their study that the intake of 1, 3 or 6 g of cinnamon per day for 40 days, followed by a 20 day wash out period, reduced serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Animal studies within this field show the same reduction in total cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL levels. 1,2,11

Anticancer properties

Research in animal studies show that cinnamon may have some protective effects against cancer. It is said to act by reducing the growth of cancer cells as well as the formation of blood vessels within tumours.1,2,5 As most of this research was done in animals, it is unclear if it has the same effect in humans.

Neuroregenerative properties

It has been suggested that a compound extracted from cinnamon appears to stop the build-up of a protein called tau in the brain, which has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.1,2, 5,9 All of the articles on this quote the same paper, therefore more research needs to be conducted on this topic.

From the information above it seems that cinnamon is one of those superfoods that has a multitude of benefits. What is clear from all these studies is that the medicinal properties were dependent on a few factors. This included the varietal of cinnamon used, which part of the plant was used e.g. bark, leaves or buds as well as the extraction process used. The majority of the studies were conducted on animals therefore can we truly say it will have the same effect in humans. The question is, how do we know that the cinnamon we are buying from the shops has all these beneficial properties and compounds that were extracted and found to be beneficial. This being said there is no harm in adding a few teaspoons of cinnamon every day? Health benefits or not, cinnamon tastes delicious and is a great way to flavour your food without adding sugar or salt.

FUTURELIFE® Smart Oats is available in four flavours of which one is Apple Cinnamon. You could also add some cinnamon to a delicious FUTURELIFE® smoothie such as the Apple Crunch Smoothie seen below, which can be found on the FUTURELIFE® website. Visit to see more.



½ cup skim milk
½ cup low fat vanilla yoghurt
1 small apple, peeled, core removed and chopped
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Cinnamon to taste
40g (3 heaped tablespoons) Original flavour FUTURELIFE® Crunch


Add all the ingredients to your blender and blend together on full power until smooth. Serve and enjoy.


Serves 1 – meal
Serves 2 – snack



  1. Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant
  3. Leech –;jsessionid=AEEE7F7D451ABA170D1B330D0BC61A58.d02t04. Accessed 29 September 2015.
  4. Health benefits of herbs and spices: the past, the present, the future
  5. Cinnamon and Health
  7. Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes
  8. The glycaemic outcomes of Cinnamon, a review of the experimental evidence and clinical trials.
  9. Antioxidant activity of Cinnamomum cassia.
  10. Cinnamon extract inhibits tau aggregation associated with Alzheimer’s disease in vitro
  11. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes

Reading food labels

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Reading labels 101

By: Ashleigh Smith

Date: 15th December 2015

I don’t know about you but before I learnt how to read labels I would stand in the shop with one product in each hand trying to decipher the tiny letters and numbers written on the back or side. Food labels can sometimes be misleading with health claims, flashy packaging or confusing messages leaving you very confused as to if it’s classified as a healthy option. On the other hand, food labels can provide you with a great deal of information about that product and once you know how to read them you will feel so empowered.

Key points to look at:

  • Ingredients list
  • Typical Nutritional Information
  • Energy
  • Carbs
  • Fat
  • Salt

There are a few things you should look for on a food label, the first is the Ingredients list. This gives you an idea of what is in the product.  The first few ingredients listed makes up the largest portion of the food. Therefore if you look at our FUTURELIFE® HIGH ENERGY Smart Food you will see the first ingredient is Smart Maize TM Whole maize flour. Be weary of products where one of the first ingredients listed is sugar or something different to what the product is saying it is.

Now we go to the actual table, this is known as the Typical Nutritional Information. This is where the quantities of nutrients found in that food are listed and often where people start to get confused. The nutritional information is usually listed in 2 columns; the first is the quantities of nutrients per 100g or per 100ml (liquid) as well as per serving size, this is usually stipulated by manufacturers. Some products might only have the nutritional value listed per 100 g (or 100 ml) and not per serving size. This is when it can get tricky; you will have to determine the nutritional value by calculating it according to the weight of the product. For example if you are looking at one of our FUTURELIFE® High Protein Smartbars, which weighs 50g, to work out the nutritional per serving you will have to divide the per 100g value in half. At FUTURELIFE® we have made it simple for you, all our products are listed per 100g (or per 100ml) as well as per serving. Most products that are sold in South Africa contain both per 100 g and serving information and those who don’t will be obliged to as part of the new labelling laws.

The first nutrient listed is Energy and in South Africa it is usually listed in kilojoules (kJ). However in certain products, usually from overseas, energy is also listed in calories (cal) or even kilocalories (kcal), this can become quite confusing. The abbreviations ‘cal’ and ‘kCal’ actually have different scientific meanings but food manufacturers often use them interchangeably, therefore 70kCal or 70cal is the same and represents 70 calories. If you come across a product that is in calories, it can be converted to kJ using this easy calculation. 1 kJ is equal to 4.2kCal, therefore 500kJ converted to calories is 119 calories (500 kJ / 4.2) and to go from calories to kJ you multiply by 4.2 (119 kCal / cal x 4.2 = 500 kJ).  Now that we have an energy value what does it mean? Energy values for meals should be around 300kCal /1260 kJ to 500 kCal / 2100 kJ calories depending on your gender, exercise level and health goals.

The next nutrient to look at is Carbohydrates and it is listed in the label as ‘Glycaemic carbohydrate’. This is the total carbohydrates that your body uses for energy and includes sugar. The total sugar value listed under glycaemic carbohydrate is added sugar (sucrose) as well as naturally occurring sugars in the form of lactose (milk sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar) etc. There are numerous names for sugar such as Sucrose, Agave nectar, Caramel, Coconut sugar, Molasses sugar, Honey and the list goes on. Sugars that occur naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy and carbohydrates that are high in fibre are okay. It’s the sugars that are removed from their original source and added to foods that you need to be weary of. A small amount of added sugar (less than 10 % of Total Energy or about 6 teaspoons per day) can form part of a healthy balanced lifestyle especially in those who exercise. Sugar is often added to many of our foods such as pasta sauces, condiments, yoghurt, confectionary and drinks etc. therefore the total number of tsp can be reached very quickly. That’s not even counting the sugar added to your tea or coffee. An easy way to quantify the sugar content in a food product is to calculate the number of teaspoons keeping in mind that there is 5 g of sugar in 1 tsp. of sugar. Let’s do an example; FUTURELIFE® Smart Drink has a total sugar content of 10.4 g (mostly naturally occurring from milk) per 250ml, therefore

10.4g / 5 g = 2.08 therefore

2 teaspoons of sugar.


To further classify the sugar content of your food (per 100g or 100ml), you can use the table below


(per 100g)


(Healthier option)


(Eat most of the time)


(Eat occasionally)

Sugar 5 g or less 5.1 – 15g More than 15 g

You also need to look at the portion size you are eating at one time as well as if you are eating it with other foods rich in fibre and protein, as this will slow digestion and absorption into the body. Any product that contains more than 6g of fibre per 100g is classified as ‘high in fibre’.

The next nutrient is another controversial nutrient… Fat. The fat content is broken down into total fat, saturated fat, unsaturated fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat) and trans fat. Choose food with labels that show a higher unsaturated fat content rather than saturated or trans fats content. Look out for the words such as ‘hydrogenated vegetable oil’ in the ingredients list as this is another phrase for trans fat. The total fat and saturated fat content of your food product (per 100g) can be rated according to the table below.

It is important to remember that all fats are still high in energy so they should be eaten sparingly.


(per 100g)


(Healthier option)


(Most of the time)


(Eat occasionally)

Total Fat 3 g or less 3.1 – 20 g More than 20 g
Saturated fat 1.5 g or less 1.6 – 5 g More than 5g



(per 100g)


(Eat more often)


(Eat sometimes )


(Avoid or Limit)

Sodium 120mg or less

(300 g Table Salt)

120 – 600 mg More than 600mg

(1.5 g Table salt)

Another nutrient to watch out for is sodium which is listed on the food label as total sodium. Look on the ingredient list for the words ‘salt’ or any ingredient that contains the word ‘sodium’ e.g. MSG, baking soda or baking powder. Other words that describe salty foods are “salted”, “smoked” or “cured”.




The Heart and stroke foundation of South Africa (HSF) have developed a set of criteria to rate the salt content of a product. It was developed as part of their Salt Watch program to reduce the salt intake of South Africans which has been associated with high blood pressure risk.



Look out for the following accredited logos such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, GI foundation of South Africa (GIFSA), Five a day, Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and the Diabetes Association of South Africa. If the products carry any of these logos, they have met stringent guidelines to receive that accreditation and may be trusted.


Now that you have learnt how to read a food label, go to your nearest grocery store or pull out some products in your cupboard and give your new skill some practice. If you have questions chat to your dietician or Woolworths store to see if they offer label tours. For more on our FUTURELIFE® products, visit





  2. Understanding food labels.