Ingredients Insight: Sweet Success

Rare sugars in FNB industry

Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners have been a staple of Western foods and beverages for over a century. But spurred on by the general enthusiasm for healthy living, scientists are increasingly interested in so-called rare sugars. Elly Earls speaks to Sreedevi Kakkad, a food and nutrition consultant at ChemBizR, to learn how research into these unusual products is progressing, and investigate the formulation and regulatory hurdles that scientists and manufacturers still need to overcome.

It is a well-known fact that too much traditional sugar is bad for the body. The growing prevalence of lifestyle conditions such as diabetes and obesity verify its continuing presence in individuals’ collective diets. The response has generally been to replace ‘bad’ sugars that might previously have been ladled into, say, tea, with Splenda tablets, or switch out full-fat Coca-Cola for Coke Zero, which gets its sweetness from the artificial sweetener aspartame.

But with evidence mounting about the potentially damaging effect of artificial sweeteners – aspartame being the most high profile – consumers are increasingly demanding natural alternatives. And the food and beverage industry is, albeit slowly, delivering. Natural sweetener stevia – which is derived from the South American plant of the same name – is an ingredient many people have likely heard of today. Rare sugar allulose, which occurs naturally in fruits like figs and raisins, perhaps, has crossed the public’s radars as well.

But these two ingredients are just the tip of the rare sugar iceberg. There are dozens of different ingredients found in small quantities in nature that have the potential to offer the sweetness of traditional sugars and artificial sweeteners without the negative health impacts.

Metabolic and Probiotic Benefits

The main difference between traditional and rare sugars is the way they are digested by our bodies. While traditional sugars cause an increase in blood glucose and insulin levels, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some rare sugars are metabolised differently, including producing only very small changes in blood glucose and insulin.

“Almost half of consumers are now demanding less sugar in their products so they can manage lifestyle diseases like obesity and diabetes, which are associated with the consumption of traditional sugars,” says Sreedevi Kakkad, a food and nutrition consultant at ChemBizR, a boutique business research and consulting partner for chemical companies globally. “There is an increasing demand from the consumer side for food and beverage products that have lower sugar content but can maintain a similar taste and texture profile.”

Originally published on Ingredients Insight. To read more visit Ingredients Insight

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