Natural Sweetener Characteristics and Uses

Posted on:September 5, 2018

Mary Mulry, Ph.D., CFS, Managing Director, Foodwise One LLC, from her 2018 Sweetener Systems Conference presentation.

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Sweeteners have a variety of functional properties, including taste, texture and crystal control, among others. Yet, with diabetes on the rise and an increased focus on nutrition and well-being, consumers are demanding more healthful products, including those with reduced sugar, low-glycemic indices, and low-carb and all-natural ingredients. Thus, product developers must not only understand taste, texture and functionality, but the nutritive value of the products they create.

The increased focus on nutrition puts the emphasis squarely on glycemic index, which has a lot to do with not raising blood sugar, said Mary Mulry, Ph.D., Managing Director, FoodWise One, LLC in her presentation “Functional Properties and Applications of Natural Sweeteners.”

Fructose doesn’t raise blood sugar like glucose (dextrose), but there are concerns about its use. HFCS is a very functional and inexpensive sweetener, but over-consumption can lead to obesity and other health issues, as well. And, in today’s market, there’s more focus on organic and non-GMO. Corn is a highly modified crop and has a poor reputation in the natural foods market. These demands are slowly moving into the conventional market.

Blending sweeteners is important, whether nutritive or non-nutritive are used. Satiety and satiation are important in choosing ingredients. Sweeteners neither bring satiety nor satiation, unless they are blended with other macro-nutrients, such as fiber or protein. Alternative natural sweeteners have become increasingly important. Consumers desire natural-sounding ingredients and those that are non-GMO and organic. Additionally, their diet, such as Paleo, may dictate the sweeteners used. Another consideration is that food formulators might want to make a health declaration on the ingredient statement.

These natural alternative sweeteners include honey, which is versatile and has a distinctive flavor and high humectancy but can be costly and is non-vegan. Another natural alternative is maple syrup, which is vegan; has a range of flavor profiles; meets the Paleo diet restrictions (as does honey)—but is more costly than other alternatives. Agave has a clean taste and a low glycemic index, because it is high in fructose. It is available raw (i.e., not heated above 118°F). However, agave’s high fructose level can also be a negative with some consumers. Brown rice syrups are available in multiple Dextrose Equivalents (DE) that have different sweetener profiles with different functionalities. And, lastly, molasses is used frequently in pet foods.

Other syrups include: tapioca syrup, which has a clean flavor and can be used by
itself or blended with other sweeteners; and yacon syrup, a relatively new sweetener, which is less sweet because it contains 50% fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and 35% fructose. A prebiotic claim can be made when used, but presently reliability of supply is questionable.

Inulin syrups are less sweet and have a lower DE, but contain more FOS and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) that can reduce sweetness and have a binding property that makes them suitable for bars, for example. Other syrups include date, sweet potato, balsamic, sorghum and pomegranate.

Sweeteners are designed to make foods more palatable and have other functional characteristics, but they shouldn’t be a large part of the daily nutritional profile. Sweeteners are an additive, not a food, and should be used in moderation. As a product developer, it’s important to know what the consumer wants. Consumers rely on the internet for infor- mation and believe what they read. These factors should be considered when choosing a sweetener system, but overall, moderation is key.

“Functional Properties and Applications of Natural Sweeteners,” Mary C. Mulry, Ph.D., CFS, Managing Director, Foodwise One LLC, Longmont, CO,

Reducing Sugar in Baked Products

Posted on:September 4, 2018

David Busken, Principal, Bakery Development Ltd., chart from his 2017 Sweetener Systems Conference presentation
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“I am just a simple baker,” began David Busken, Principal and Consultant with Bakery Development Ltd. Well, that’s understating it a bit: He’s a master commercial baker and the descendant of a long line of professional bakers.

Busken presented a list of sweeteners typically utilized in bakery goods development. Whereas American bakers traditionally worked with sucrose, honey, glucose (dextrose) or a range of hydrolyzed corn syrups, the field of sweetener ingredients has expanded considerably as consumer preferences have changed and enzyme technology has advanced.

Highest in sugar content on Busken’s list were the simple sugars and disaccharides, dried fructose and sucrose, each with 100% sugar content. Lower on the list were: molasses (67%); 42 Dextrose Equivalent (DE) corn syrup solids (27.5%), which consist primarily of dextrins and maltodextrins; and inulin (9.5%), a fructo-oligosaccharide. DE, a measure of reducing-sugar content, designates the degree of enzymatic hydrolysis to which a starch material has been subjected.

Fructo-oligosaccharides, which are relatively new as food ingredients, may contain moderate or high levels of fructose sugar, depending upon their degree of hydrolysis. Suppliers of inulin (a fructo-oligosaccharide) typically offer a range of hydrolysates, varying in sweetness and sugar content. Polyols, or sugar alcohols, contribute sweetness, low-caloric contents and texture control, without having to be labeled as sugars.

Newer entrants to the baker’s portfolio include low-calorie sugars, such as allulose. Allulose poses a conundrum, however: Though negligible in calories, it must still be labeled as a sugar.

Clean label considerations can also be a factor. For example, while a corn hydrolysate, such as 42 DE corn syrup, might be frowned upon by the clean label community, a 42 DE tapioca hydrolysate might be quite acceptable, despite virtually identical sugar contents.

“So, how does one reduce sugar in a cookie (or biscuit from 28 to 22%, for example?” asked Busken. To make a soft cookie, one can use non-crystallizing reducing sugars, polyols and inulins. “To make a crisp cookie, I suggest a 42 DE corn syrup…once we bake out the moisture, it then becomes very hard.” He noted that this ingredient is used to make cookie inclusions for frozen ice creams or yogurt: Increasing 42 DE corn syrup levels to 8% allows them to remain crisp in frozen storage.

To take sugar out of a cookie requires that it be replaced with other ingredients. “For a high-quality cookie, you want to add more fat than flour, because it keeps it richer… ‘rich’ implying higher levels of fat, sugar or egg.” The richer the product formulation, the longer its shelflife! A heat-stable, high-intensity potency sweetener can be used to compensate for the reduction in sweetness, said Busken.

If “richness” is not a goal, Busken recommends replacing the sugar with flour and adding slightly more water to compensate for the added flour. This also increases protein content which, in turn, hardens a cookie’s texture. “To improve a cookie’s texture, or ‘bite,’ you will want to create a more open grain structure to compensate for hardness contributed by the added flour,” said Busken. Add more egg and more leavening. Or, find a pastry flour with lower protein content, but higher quality protein.

Cookie hardness is also managed by controlling water ab- sorption and length of bake. This is especially important for soft cookies. Choice of sweeteners helps to control texture. Replacing sugar with a blend of HFCS and regular (42 DE) corn syrup works and contributes to a chewy texture. “An 80:20 blend of corn syrup and HFCS will also reduce or slow down fructose crystallization.” Low-calorie polyols and some inulins can also impair sugar crystallization and soften cookie textures.

For softer, rather than crisp cookies, whole grains work well as sugar replacers—while enhancing the Nutrition Facts panel appeal. They absorb water and break up the dough structure, while also contributing valuable nutrients. Busken recommended using whole oat flakes, rye flakes, buckwheat groats (“they add nice flavor and a whole-grain texture that people expect”), pulse flours (e.g., lentil flour) and flax meal, which contributes a nice flavor along with healthy omega-3 oils. However, “if using pulse flours, make sure that they have been heat-treated, in order to avoid beany aromas and flavors.”

“Reducing Sugar in Baked Goods: Practical Considerations & Possible Solutions,” David F. Busken, Principal, Bakery Development Ltd.,

Does Sugar Cause Obesity?

Posted on:August 12, 2018

“So, when you see someone who is obese…do you ask, ‘Is it too much sugar; is it too much carbohydrate; or is it just too [insert colorful adjective] much?” Professor Julie Miller Jones, of St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, characteristically likes to get straight to the point, and she did so in her 2017 Sweetener Systems Conference presentation titled “Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice? Is This Truth in Labeling?”
Rightly or wrongly, sugar has been identified with obesity and other disease states. To this, Jones (also characteristically) proffered correctives.

“Obesity is endemic around the world: People are terrified because, while we (Americans) may be [some of] the fattest people on the planet, other people are catching up really fast,” said Jones. The Internet hasn’t helped. “Internet media is filled with misrepresentations and accusations,” says Jones.

She pointed to an Internet link [] listing 146 reasons (and counting) why sugar allegedly ruins people’s health (e.g., dietary sugar can impair the structure of DNA). World organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization have adopted strong anti-sugar policies. In Chile, for example, any product with added sugar must prominently display a black warning logo identifying the product as “high in sugar.” World Health Organization (WHO) Director of Nutrition in Health and Development, Dr. Francesco Branca, went so far as to claim that, “Nutritionally, people don’t need any sugar in their diet.”

So, are the alleged links between sugar consumption, obesity and other diseases supported by the science? Jones emphatically argues “no.” Much of the evidence claiming negative effects from sugar consumption is based on epidemiological data. “One thing that I want to emphasize to consumers is that epidemiological studies only show associations, not cause-and-effect. For example, we know that high-fat ice cream, low-fat ice cream and cell phone use are associated with obesity; we also know that sales of workout shoes and clothing are associated with obesity.” But these are only associations. High-level consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages can just as easily be marathon runners or people with poor dietary and lifestyle habits.

Sugar, per se, does not cause weight gain or diseases. Actual scientific studies claiming links between sugar and sweetener consumption to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular health or other disease conditions are problematic at best, said Jones. She deconstructed a list of studies claiming such links. Some studies were inconclusive; other studies overdosed rat diets with sugar.

“What we can do is associate excessive sugar intake and calories with obesity, and obesity with Type II diabetes,” said Jones. Ditto for excessive fat or protein intake. “There is also agreement that high circulating sugars in the blood are high-risk factors for a number of complications.” But high blood sugar levels don’t necessarily equate to high sugar consumption.

But, more fundamentally, “If you look at historic sweetener intakes, based on disappearance data, you will see that the consumption of caloric sweeteners as a percentage of the diet has steadily declined and, today, is at a slightly lower level found in the 1970s. But total calorie intake has risen, and people have become more obese over that period. What we find is that it is not grains; it is not sweeteners; it is not fat…it’s everything together: It’s the calories!”

Unfortunately, much of the public’s confusion is exacerbated by media obfuscation of already questionable scientific data, through misinterpretation and the use of misleading headlines. This encourages consumer media and non-profit organizations to create deductive links between sugar consumption and cardiovascular disease “…that we really don’t have the data to support,” Jones concluded.

This can have unfortunate consequences. One of the (several) benefits of dietary sugar is that it increases the palatability of very nutritious foods. Jones cites an example of “zealous parents in New York” that successfully banned the consumption of flavored, sweetened milk in schools. This drove milk consumption way down, “along with calcium, riboflavin and other important nutrients found in milk.” Eventually, pediatricians and parents realized their mistake and tried to return flavored milks to school lunch menus but, alas, kids had by then switched their beverage preferences to their detriment.

“We really need to be careful that we don’t, with good ‘motives,’ end up making the wrong, uninformed and untested choices that are detrimental, said Jones. In conclusion, it’s not the sugar: It’s the lifestyles and the calories! “Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice? Is This Truth in Labeling?”

Julie Miller Jones, Ph.D., CNS, CFS, LN, Emeritus Professor and Distinguished Scholar of Food and Nutrition, St. Catherine University

Problems with Labeling Added Sugars

Posted on:

New Proposed Nutrition Facts Panel 2018Food manufacturers take note: There still remains an important, albeit small (perhaps 1-1/2 year) window of opportunity for food and beverage companies to convince the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) to modify or eliminate its pending sugar-labeling regulations, according to Bruce Silverglade, Esq., Principal at the Washington, D.C.-based law and lobbying firm, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC (OFW Law). Silverglade’s 2017 Sweetener Systems Conference presentation was titled “FDA’s Nutrition Facts Panel and the Labeling of Added Sugars.”

Provisions of the final rule Nutrition Facts rule can still be revisited through FDA guidance documents, use of enforcement discretion and/or issuance of interim final rule.

Why is there the need? The FDA’s pending regulations for “added sugar” labeling make no sense. The Nutrition Facts label of a snack bar, for example, will read, “Total Sugars 10g; Added Sugars 10g.” “You can say, ‘reduced sugar’ or ‘sugar free,’ ‘no added sugars,’ but not ‘low sugar.’ But the real stickler is ‘added sugars per serving,’” Silverglade said. The regulations, he maintained, are unworkable.

He listed five principle reasons: 1) the science to support sugar content rules is “tenuous at best;” 2) the pending labels are “confusing and misleading;” 3) the rules rest “on very shaky legal grounds;” 4) the technology currently does not exist to verify compliance; and 5) the regulations would put U.S. food and beverage manufacturers totally at odds with global standards.

First is the lack the scientific support: “A big part of problem is that sugar labeling regulation began as a political, rather than scientific project. So political science quickly overcame real science,” said Silverglade. “As a result, the FDA flipped and flopped and flipped again to develop rationales for the regulations.”

“Moreover, the FDA ultimately based its decision to require ‘added sugar’ labeling on the recommendation of the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which was heavily politicized,” asserted Silverglade. Subsequently, the FDA failed to submit its conclusions to a customary review by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS). As it was, the foundational scientific evidence utilized by the DGAC to justify added sugar labeling was very limited and very weak. Presumably, Silverglade implied, the NAS would have noted this.

The second reason is label confusion: The FDA’s own research projected that 24% of consumers would be misled by the pending added-sugar labeling regulations, said Silverglade.

For example, an FDA study indicated that about 25% of consumers would choose a food higher in saturated fat and sodium merely because its “added sugar” label listing was lower than that for an alternative, higher “added sugar” product that contained healthier saturated fat and sodium levels. “This shows the danger of the FDA stressing a particular nutrient level to such a degree that consumers misunderstand the total nutrition label and take away the wrong message.”

Furthermore, under the pending regulations, continued Silverglade, a bag of sugar would have to declare 8g of sugar per serving on the Nutrition Facts panel and also 8g of “added sugars” per serving. “This is nonsensical!” said Silverglade.

The third reason involves legal concerns: The FDA is required to engage in “reasoned decision making.” If not, the FDA violates the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by engaging in “arbitrary and capricious” action. Silverglade maintained that the FDA did this in bypassing the NAS review process, thereby violating the U.S. Administrative Procedures Act. He also noted that, for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to make a case against misleading advertising, it need only show that 15% of consumers could be misled by a particular advertisement. But the FDA’s own research indicated that as many as 24% of consumers would be misled by the proposed added sugar claims. The FDA cannot, by law, mislead consumers.

Bruce Silverglade, Principal, OFW Law, graphic from his 2017 Sweetener Systems Conference presentation, SSC

A number of arguments exist as to why the pending requirement for “added sugar” labeling on the Nutrition Facts should be revisited.

There are also 1st Amendment issues (regarding free speech), continued Silverglade. “Under the doctrine of commercial free speech, companies have a right not to be forced to make misleading claims.”

In addition, the lack of existing technologies whereby to verify added sugar label claims will require extensive (and very expensive) record-keeping that will likely require access to confidential files by the FDA, thereby threatening companies’ trade secrets. And, finally, an “added sugar” ruling places U.S. food and beverage manufacturers well outside of the standards set by neighboring Canada and international Codex Alimentarius guidelines, thereby threatening their competitiveness. “Health Canada investigated ‘added sugars’ labeling and rejected it as being impractical,” said Silverglade.

Thus, it behooves U.S. food and beverage manufacturers to propitiously lobby for changes, while that narrow window of opportunity remains open.

“FDA’s Nutrition Facts Panel and the Labeling of Added Sugars,” Bruce A. Silverglade, Principal, OFW Law


Is Removing Caloric Sugars the Answer?

Posted on:August 9, 2018

Click to Enlarge T1R2 and T1R3 taste receptors are the primary detectors for sweet taste. Both control and knockout mice (lacking the T1R3 receptor) can detect caloric sweeteners, but mice without T1R3 receptors do not respond to artificial sweeteners.

“Humans have a strong preference for sweet taste, but that’s a problem from a health perspective. In order to develop reduced-sugar products, food formulators need to understand how sweet taste works,” said Nancy E. Rawson, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia. Completely eliminating caloric sugars from reduced-sugar products makes no sense, a concept that led to the title of her presentation: “Why No Calorie Makes No Sense.”

Reducing sugar content is a priority, especially when developing products for children. Food formulators already have a large tool box, including non-nutritive sweeteners, high-potency sweeteners, sugar alternatives, polyols, sensory interactions and physical approaches. But this is not enough.

About 20 years ago, the taste receptors for sweet and umami were discovered. According to Rawson, these T1R genes are believed to have evolved from species that lived more than 400 million years ago. Evolution matches sensory apparatus to nutrition requirements, and each species must solve the fundamental problem of obtaining sufficient nutrients while avoiding being poisoned. Sugars provide a rapidly accessed source of calories necessary for omnivore survival. By replacing caloric sweeteners with non-caloric ones, we are trying to fool Mother Nature. But this is not working, because the brain response to non-caloric sweeteners is different than the response to caloric sweeteners.

To understand sweet taste, one needs to understand taste detectors. The tongue’s taste cells are the initial chemosensors of the alimentary tract. The tongue contains papillae, and taste buds line the mucus-filled cavities of these papillae. In order for a food to be perceived as sweet, a compound has to get to the cells in these crevices.

Rawson explained that there are three types of taste cells within each taste bud. Type I taste cells are probably involved in tasting salt and managing ionic concentration. Type II cells are responsible for detecting sweet, umami and bitter tastes. When activated, Type II cells release ATP, which communicates with type III cells and nerves.

T1R2 and T1R3 taste receptors are the primary detectors for sweet taste. Both control mice and knockout mice (lacking the T1R3 receptor) respond to caloric sweeteners, but the response to artificial sweeteners is eliminated in knockout mice. An independent sugar-detection pathway is made up of glucose transporters. These transporters take up glucose, which is metabolized to generate ATP, leading to downstream signaling and sweet detection. (See chart “Taste Receptors for Sweet and Umami Perception.”)

There are also brush border digestive enzymes (BBE) located in the taste buds. These BBE and amylases are present in sufficient quantity to break down starches and disaccharides into glucose and fructose. This enzymatic pathway is sufficiently active to con- tribute to sweet detection. If you eliminate both the T1R3 and enzyme pathways, you abolish the response to disaccharides.

The second sweet-detection pathway is sensitive only to sugars that can be transported by glucose transporters, i.e., monosaccharides. Non-nutritive sweeteners only act on the first pathway. Nutritive sweeteners act on both pathways, although these are not equal. Thus, taste cells are providing information on both perceptual and nutritional quality. A new definition of sweet will need to encompass the ability of taste cells to detect caloric content.

Is it possible to shift preference for sweet foods? Paul Wise and colleagues reduced dietary sugar intake of subjects by 40% vs. a control group. After four months, subjects in the low-sugar group perceived a pudding as sweeter. But this effect did not persist. One month after discontinuing the reduced-sugar diet, the subjects went back to baseline.

Shifting preference for sweet is going to be harder than shifting preference for salt. Some people have a lot of alpha amylase enzyme, while others don’t have as much. This variation alters the sensory response to polysaccharides. Genetic
variation counts for 23-30% of the total phenotypic variation in perceived intensity across a set of sweeteners, which influences, but does not fully account for, differences in our sweet-taste experience.

Humans have an inborn drive for sources of energy, driven by 400 million years of evolution. So, we are not going to fool Mother Nature very easily. The true target for a sweetener needs to include a caloric component. Companies should strive for sugar reduction, not elimination.

“Why No Calorie Makes No Sense,” Nancy E. Rawson, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center

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