Photo/IllutrationFrom right: Plain Medi Midi low-carb bread, one with sugared azuki beans and a loaf with orange peel (Provided by Fujita Health University)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

TOYOAKE, Aichi Prefecture--A doctor and a baker here found a way to develop low-carbohydrate bread products that people with diabetes and others on restricted diets can eat without fear of worsening their conditions.

Atsushi Suzuki, 55, a professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the Faculty of Medicine of Fujita Health University, tapped a baker working in the university's cafe bakery and grad students to help him create Medi Midi loaves.

Targeting people with high blood sugar and those who need to cut their carbs, Medi Midi has only one-third to one-half the carbs of ordinary bread. But it still has the same amount of calories to let people get the proper amount of energy from it.

Since it's also free from sweetening, the bread's raw ingredients come out strongly, giving it a rich flavor.

Consuming high amounts of carbs from wheat and sugar is said to cause weight gain, because they are stored as neutral fat in the liver and fat cells.

Bread contains salt and thus promotes the absorption of carbs, raising the risk of a surge in blood sugar. A sharp rise in blood sugar is linked to the onset and progression of diabetes and arteriosclerosis and the development of cerebral and myocardial infarctions.

With that in mind, it may be no surprise that some extreme dieters try to avoid all carbohydrates to lose weight.

Suzuki, who heads the diabetes care support center at Fujita Health University Hospital, started developing low-carb bread three years ago. He teamed with graduate students and a baker at a cafe in the hospital called Cherry.

“I wanted patients to be able to control the consumption of carbs while enjoying tasty food that would give them sufficient calories,” Suzuki said.

During development, they upped the volume of the bread's dietary fiber, such as by partially replacing flour with powdered bran and soybeans. The aim was to inhibit the absorption of carbohydrates while allowing people eating it to feel full at the same time.

Suzuki, determined to make sure the bread tasted good, developed three kinds of low-carb loafs: a plain one; a loaf featuring orange peels; and bread containing sugared azuki beans.

Though artificial sweeteners are not used, the orange peel and azuki beans retain their natural sugar level in order to not compromise the original flavors of the ingredients.

Suzuki and his colleagues tested their bread with the assistance of diabetes patients hospitalized at the medical center. They found it was friendlier to the pancreas than normal bread, and helped curb increases in blood sugar.

The patients gave it an overall thumbs-up, saying it was easier to eat and tasted better than they expected. The positive reception has led to booming sales.

Suzuki said he hopes that patients “will enjoy bread they like instead of resisting the urge to eat or drastically reducing how much they eat.”

“I'd feel great if patients can enjoy the bread without imposing a burden on their bodies,” he said.

Plain loaves sell for 800 yen ($7.37). Ones with orange peel and azuki beans are 900 yen, including tax. As they are available only at Cherry and tend to sell out, those who want to try them should order in advance.

Suzuki and others are currently looking to expand the sales network for Medi Medi with an eye on concluding licensing contracts and other arrangements.