New research lights the way for sugar reduction using natural products while maintaining sweetness and taste

US – New research could open opportunities for the food industry to produce food and beverages with lower sugar content and calories while maintaining sweetness and taste using natural products.

This research was recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, to accomplish the long-term goal of both the healthcare system and the food and beverage industry, in sugar reduction.

Finding natural, non-caloric sugar substitutes is desirable but challenging, however, researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have made a breakthrough—discovering new, natural sweeteners in citrus for the first time.

Eleven selections from the UF/IFAS citrus breeding program were selected for exceptional flavors. These cultivars included UF 914 (a grapefruit hybrid), and EV-2 and OLL-20 (both sweet oranges). Mandarins, including Sugar Belle, Bingo, 13-51, 18A-4-46, 18A-9-39, 18A-10-38, were also included in the research project.

To date, the researchers said reducing sugar in food without compensating for sweetness can reduce the taste of most food.

Replacing sugar with artificial, non-caloric sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose and aspartame can negatively impact flavor profiles by leaving a bitter and metallic aftertaste.

Consumers have shown an increasing preference for naturally derived sweeteners that more closely resemble the sensory profile of sugar, which cannot be found in even natural, non-caloric sweeteners, that still possess some licorice-like and bitter aftertaste.

To date, the researchers noted that only six synthetic and two natural sweeteners/sweetness enhancers are approved by the FDA.

Natural sweeteners are said to be currently derived from fruits, some of which are difficult to cultivate.

Yu Wang, associate professor of food science at UF/IFAS said: “We were able to identify a natural source for an artificial sweetener, oxime V, that had never been identified from any natural source previously.”

This creates expanded opportunities for citrus growers and for breeding cultivars to be selected to obtain high yields of sweetener compounds.”

Yu Wang has managed the multi-year project that found eight new sweetener or sweetness-enhancing compounds in 11 citrus cultivars.

Wang added that consumers want sweet-tasting orange juice, but they’re also concerned about too much sugar consumption. Identifying the sweeteners and sweet-enhancing compounds could provide a solution to the “Sugar Bias” in the citrus industry.

In addition to trying to find actual sweeteners in citrus, researchers looked to find sweetness enhancers that can significantly reduce the amount of sugar required to achieve the same level of perceived sweetness.

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