The alarming number of obesity and overweight cases in recent years pose serious public health concerns and has prodded food manufacturers to implement new sugar reduction strategies. An observational study in 2007 and a newsletter issued by the Harvard School of Public Health showed a strong correlation between the consumption of simple sugars (such as glucose, fructose and galactose) and the growing obesity epidemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends restricting sugar intake to less than 10% of total daily calorie intake but highly recommends to consume only 5%. Now consumers are taking their health into their own hands and demanding healthier food choices, without caloric sweeteners.
According to the discussion held in 2014 at the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo, New Orleans consumers are shifting towards low salt and sugar foods with more than 50% of consumers opting for such food variants. With this rising trend, the food industry is making headway towards reformulating their food products to bring about healthier options that consumers are demanding.
Following are some sugar reduction strategies that food manufacturers can implement today:
Sugar Reduction Strategies of 2016:
1. High Intensity Sweeteners
Nowadays, consumers are opting for natural sweeteners instead of artificial in order to avoid potential health issues. Stevia is one such non-nutritive, zero glycemic index, natural sweetener that has recently been approved for use in foods by the FDA. It been popularized because its 200-300 times sweeter than the table sugar without the added calories, however, its aftertaste poses a challenge for product formulators. Several have tried to create better tasting stevia through the use of bitter blockers, modifiers, GMO’s and organic strategies.
Recently, a team at Cornell University found that bovine serum albumin helped to reduce stevia’s aftertaste. Cargill developed a GMO yeast that produces steviol glycosides (the sweet part of stevia) that has less bitter off notes. However, there are organic alternatives that can improve the taste of stevia. MycoTechnology found a particular mushroom extract used as a processing aid, eliminates the aftertaste of stevia which is certified USDA Organic.
2. Sweet receptor modulators
Most sweet receptor modulators are Positive Allosteric Modulators (PAM), which are substances that modify the perception of sweetness and improve sweet taste receptor activity. PAMs do not produce sweetness on their own, but trigger the sweetness intensity of low-calorie or zero‑calorie sweeteners. The advantage of using sweetness modulators is to reduce the associated bitterness and lingering tastes of sweeteners.
3. Cross-Modal Correspondence
Using molecular biology, your taste buds can be tricked into thinking foods are sweeter than they actually are. This works because sweetness is perceived in the mouth and when a sweetener interacts with salvia an interaction happens between olfaction and gustation. This is why when using vanilla above or below the aroma threshold, enhances the perceived sweetness of a product.
Other cross-modal correspondence that can be used to change the perception of sweetness is the color and shape of a product. For example strawberry mousse was perceived to be 10% sweeter and more well liked on a white plate than a black plate. Hot chocolate tastes sweeter and has more of an aroma in a dark cream cup than in white or red cup. Foods that are red are perceived as sweeter.
4. Sugar alcohols
Sugar alcohols are a type of reduced-calorie sweetener that has less of an effect on blood glucose levels. These can be used as a sugar reduction strategy due to their minimal caloric effect. The challenge with sugar alcohols is their laxative effect, particularly in children. Some of the legally approved sugar alcohols include: sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, erythritol and maltitol.
5. Reduce the bitterness
Many foods in their natural state are bitter. Often times this is a natural defenses against predators and may signal to the predator some type of toxicity. The tried and true way to cover the bitter flavors has been sweeteners. Organic bitter blockers are now available that reduce the need for sugar. Bitter blockers work by inhibiting a bitter taste from binding with a bitter taste receptor.
MycoTechnology recently introduced a certified organic bitter blocker called ClearTaste™ which is a novel way to effectively reduce the lingering bitterness from a variety of food and beverage applications, particularly stevia and monk fruit.
Sweeteners such as sucralose and saccharin have detrimental effects on gut microflora, which may result in complications like glucose intolerance. These sugars also elevate the secretion of a hunger hormone- ghrelin, leading to obesity.
On the other hand, an indigestible synthetic polymer called polydextrose has been recognized by the FDA as a soluble fiber. Polydextrose, can be used as a sugar substitute in various food processes since it functions as a prebiotic. It also serves as a thickening agent in many formulations. Additionally, the research has shown that xylitol contributes in reducing the levels of salivary mutans streptococci significantly.
Normal table sugar doesn’t have antioxidant property. However, naturally occurring sugar alcohol erythritol comes with a plus that it has a potent antioxidant property. Additionally, as erythritol provides 60‑70 percent sweetness as sucrose, it can be efficaciously used as a sugar substitute. Its caloric value is 0.2 kcal/gm giving 95 percent lower calories than table sugar.
Recent research says that erythritol acts as an antioxidant and may help in protecting against hyperglycemia-induced vascular damage. The scientific data also supports the use of erythritol as a ‘diabetic-safe’ sweetener.
8. Ribose sugar for ATP-depleted muscles
Ribose sugar is made naturally in the body and consists of five-carbon bonds. Ribose is a base of vital compounds like DNA, RNA and adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP molecules are required for energy generation and these molecules are depleted faster.
Research supports that external ribose supplementation helps in ATP synthesis and replenishes muscle cells from stress. Ribose can be used as a low-calorie sweetener and is half as sweet as sucrose. Various studies also reveal that ribose administration can benefit patients with congestive cardiac failure and ischemic heart failure by increasing heart muscle power.
9. Bulking agents
As sweeteners tend to be multiple times sweeter than sucrose, they are required to be added in small quantities. As a result, the bulk of that particular food product decreases raising the question about its volume, texture and mouth feel. Hence, bulking agents are needed along with sugar substitutes.
An appealing approach to address this problem is to use natural sugar substitutes such as sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, erythritol, isomalt, maltodextrin and mannitol as they provide sweetness and texture to the food product. Other bulking agents that would add volume, but not sweetness are soluble fibers like inulin and polydextrose.
Have another strategy? Add it to the comments below.