Non-nutritive Sweeteners Affect Human Microbiomes and Can Alter Glycemic Responses

Since the late 1800s non-nutritive sweeteners have promised to deliver all the sweetness of sugar with none of the calories. They have long been believed to have no effect on the human body, but researchers publishing in the journal Cell on August 19 challenge this notion by finding that these sugar substitutes are not inert, and, in fact, some can alter human consumers’ microbiomes in a way that can change their blood sugar levels.

In 2014, senior author Eran Elinav an immunologist and microbiome researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the German National Cancer Center (DKFZ) and his team found that non-nutritive sweeteners affected the microbiomes of mice in ways that could impact their glycemic responses. The team was interested in whether these results would also be found in humans.

To address this important question, the research team carefully screened over 1300 individuals for those who strictly avoid non-nutritive sweeteners in their day-to-day lives, and identified a cohort of 120 individuals. These participants were broken into six groups: two controls and four who ingested well below the FDA daily allowances of either aspartame, saccharin, stevia, or sucralose.

“In subjects consuming the non-nutritive sweeteners, we could identify very distinct changes in the composition and function of gut microbes, and the molecules they secret into peripheral blood. This seemed to suggest that gut microbes in the human body are rather responsive to each of these sweeteners,” says Elinav. “When we looked at consumers of non-nutritive sweeteners as groups, we found that two of the non-nutritive sweeteners, saccharin and sucralose, significantly impacted glucose tolerance in healthy adults. Interestingly, changes in the microbes were highly correlated with the alterations noted in people’s glycemic responses.”

To establish causation, the researchers transferred microbial samples from the study subjects to germ-free mice — mice that have been raised in completely sterile conditions and have no microbiome of their own.

“The results were quite striking,” says Elinav. “In all of the non-nutritive sweetener groups, but in none of the controls, when we transferred into these sterile mice the microbiome of the top responder individuals collected at a time point in which they were consuming the respective non-nutritive sweeteners, the recipient mice developed glycemic alterations that very significantly mirrored those of the donor individuals. In contrast, the bottom responders’ microbiomes were mostly unable to elicit such glycemic responses,” he adds. “These results suggest that the microbiome changes in response to human consumption of non-nutritive sweetener may, at times, induce glycemic changes in consumers in a highly personalized manner.”

Elinav says that he expects the effects of the sweeteners will vary person to person because of the incredibly unique composition of our microbiome. “We need to raise awareness of the fact that non-nutritive sweeteners are not inert to the human body as we originally believed. With that said, the clinical health implications of the changes they may elicit in humans remain unknown and merit future long-term studies.”

“In the meantime, we need to continue searching for solutions to our sweet tooth craving, while avoiding sugar, which is clearly most harmful to our metabolic health,” says Elinav. “In my personal view, drinking only water seems to be the best solution.”

Source: Science Daily

 

 

 

 

Study: A New Low-calorie Sweetener Could Also Improve Gut Health

From the wide variety of sodas, candies and baked goods that are sold worldwide, it’s clear that people love their sweet treats. But consuming too much white table sugar or artificial sweetener can lead to health issues. In the search for a better sweetener, researchers in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry now report a low-calorie mixture that is as sweet as table sugar and, in lab experiments, feeds “good” gut microbes.

Artificial sweeteners have exploded in popularity because they let people consume sweets without the calories. However, while they’re considered safe for human consumption, studies in animals and humans suggest that some of them can stimulate appetite, leading to increased food consumption and weight gain, as well as other negative health outcomes. So, researchers have been turning to the study of low-calorie or extremely sweet substances from natural sources as possible replacements. For example, galactooligosaccharides — found in mammalian milk — are low-calorie sugars with prebiotic activity that can be a source of energy for beneficial gut microbes, but they’re not quite sweet enough to replace table sugar. Alternatively, extracts from the luo han guo fruit contain mogrosides — compounds 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. But these extracts sometimes have off-flavors, which can be removed with enzymes. So, F. Javier Moreno and colleagues wanted to take advantage of the best aspects of both natural substances, using enzymes to modify mogrosides while simultaneously producing galactooligosaccharides for a brand-new low-calorie sweetener.

The researchers started with lactose and mogroside V (the primary mogroside in luo han guo fruit). When they added β-galactosidase enzymes, the researchers obtained a mixture that contained mostly galactooligosaccharides and a small amount of modified mogrosides. A trained sensory panel reported that the new combination had a sweetness similar to that of sucrose (table sugar), suggesting it could be acceptable to consumers. In test tube experiments, the new sweetener increased the levels of multiple human gut microbes that are beneficial, including Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus bacterial species. In addition, increases in bacteria-produced metabolites, such as acetate, propionate and butyrate, indicated that the mixture could potentially have a prebiotic effect on the gut microbiome. The researchers say that the new sweetener holds promise in these initial analyses, and their next step is to more closely study the substance’s impact on human gut health.

Source: American Chemical Society

 

 

 

 

How A Protein Could Become the Next Big Sweetener

High-fructose corn syrup and sugar are on the outs with calorie-wary consumers. As a result, low- and no-calorie alternatives have become popular, and soon, there could be another option that tastes more sugar-like than other substitutes. Scientists report in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry a step toward commercial production of a fruit protein called brazzein that is far sweeter than sugar — and has fewer calories.

Brazzein first attracted attention as a potential sugar substitute years ago. Making it in large amounts, however, has been challenging. Purifying it from the West African fruit that produces it naturally would be difficult on a commercial scale, and efforts to engineer microorganisms to make the protein have so far yielded a not-so-sweet version in low quantities. Kwang-Hoon Kong and colleagues are working on a new approach using yeast to churn out brazzein.

Working with Kluyveromyces lactis, the researchers coaxed the yeast to overproduce two proteins that are essential for assembling brazzein. By doing so, the team made 2.6 times more brazzein than they had before with the same organism. A panel of tasters found that the protein produced by this approach was more than 2,000 times sweeter than sugar.

Source: American Chemical Society

Cooking Class: Types of Sugar and Sweetener

White Sugar

There are many different types of granulated sugar. Some of these are used only by the food industry and professional bakers and are not available in the supermarket. The types of granulated sugars differ in crystal size. Each crystal size provides unique functional characteristics that make the sugar appropriate for a specific food’s special need.

“Regular” or white sugar, extra fine or fine sugar

“Regular” or white sugar, as it is known to consumers, is the sugar found in every home’s sugar bowl, and most commonly used in home food preparation. White sugar is the sugar called for in most cookbook recipes. The food industry stipulates “regular” sugar to be “extra fine” or “fine” because small crystals are ideal for bulk handling and not susceptible to caking.

Fruit Sugar

Fruit sugar is slightly finer than “regular” sugar and is used in dry mixes such as gelatin and pudding desserts, and powdered drinks. Fruit sugar has a more uniform small crystal size than “regular” sugar. The uniformity of crystal size prevents separation or settling of larger crystals to the bottom of the box, an important quality in dry mixes.

Bakers Special Sugar

The crystal size of Bakers Special is even finer than that of fruit sugar. As its name suggests, it was developed specially for the baking industry. Bakers Special is used for sugaring doughnuts and cookies, as well as in some commercial cake recipes to create a fine crumb texture.

Superfine, ultrafine, or bar sugar

This sugar’s crystal size is the finest of all the types of granulated white sugar. It is ideal for delicately textured cakes and meringues, as well as for sweetening fruits and iced-drinks since it dissolves easily. In England, a sugar very similar to superfine sugar is known as caster or castor, named after the type of shaker in which it is often packaged.

Confectioners or powdered sugar

This sugar is granulated sugar ground to a smooth powder and then sifted. It contains about 3% cornstarch to prevent caking. Powdered sugar is ground into three different degrees of fineness. The confectioners sugar available in supermarkets – 10X – is the finest of the three and is used in icings, confections and whipping cream. The other two types of powdered sugar are used by industrial bakers.

Coarse sugar

As its name implies, the crystal size of coarse sugar is larger than that of “regular” sugar. Coarse sugar is recovered when molasses-rich, sugar syrups high in sucrose are allowed to crystallize. The large crystal size of coarse sugar makes it highly resistant to color change or inversion (natural breakdown to fructose and glucose) at cooking and baking temperatures. These characteristics are important in making fondants, confections and liquors.

Sanding sugar

Another large crystal sugar, sanding sugar, is used mainly in the baking and confectionery industries as a sprinkle on top of baked goods. The large crystals reflect light and give the product a sparkling appearance.

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Brown Sugar

Turbinado sugar

This sugar is raw sugar which has been partially processed, where only the surface molasses has been washed off. It has a blond color and mild brown sugar flavor, and is often used in tea and other beverages.

Evaporated Cane Juice

Evaporated Cane Juice is the common name for the food-grade cane based sweetener produced directly from milled cane using a single-crystallization process. The filtered, clarified juice is evaporated into syrup, crystallized and cured. This free flowing sweetener has a light golden color and retains a hint of molasses flavor because there is no further processing.

Brown sugar (light and dark)

Brown sugar retains some of the surface molasses syrup, which imparts a characteristic pleasurable flavor. Dark brown sugar has a deeper color and stronger molasses flavor than light brown sugar. Lighter types are generally used in baking and making butterscotch, condiments and glazes. The rich, full flavor of dark brown sugar makes it good for gingerbread, mincemeat, baked beans, and other full flavored foods.

Brown sugar tends to clump because it contains more moisture than white sugar.

Muscovado or Barbados sugar

Muscovado sugar, a British specialty brown sugar, is very dark brown and has a particularly strong molasses flavor. The crystals are slightly coarser and stickier in texture than “regular” brown sugar.

Free-flowing brown sugars

These sugars are specialty products produced by a co-crystallization process. The process yields fine, powder-like brown sugar that is less moist than “regular” brown sugar. Since it is less moist, it does not clump and is free-flowing like white sugar.

Demerara sugar

Popular in England, Demerara sugar is a light brown sugar with large golden crystals, which are slightly sticky from the adhering molasses. It is often used in tea, coffee, or on top of hot cereals.

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Liquid Sugar

Liquid sugars

There are several types of liquid sugar. Liquid sugar (sucrose) is white granulated sugar that has been dissolved in water before it is used. Liquid sugar is ideal for products whose recipes first require sugar to be dissolved. Amber liquid sugar is darker in color and can be used in foods where brown color is desired.

Invert sugar

Sucrose can be split into its two component sugars (glucose and fructose). This process is called inversion, and the product is called invert sugar. Commercial invert sugar is a liquid product that contains equal amounts of glucose and fructose. Because fructose is sweeter than either glucose or sucrose, invert sugar is sweeter than white sugar. Commercial liquid invert sugars are prepared as different mixtures of sucrose and invert sugar. For example total invert sugar is half glucose and half fructose, while 50% invert sugar (half of the sucrose has been inverted) is one-half sucrose, one-quarter glucose and one-quarter fructose. Invert sugar is used mainly by food manufacturers to retard the crystallization of sugar and to retain moisture in the packaged food. Which particular invert sugar is used is determined by which function – retarding crystallization or retaining moisture – is required.

Home cooks make invert sugar whenever a recipe calls for a sugar to be boiled gently in a mixture of water and lemon juice.


26 Sweeteners, by Name and Type

Here’s the list of current and pending (not yet approved by the FDA) sweeteners. There are three basic classifications. Caloric sweeteners (of which sugar is one), artificial sweeteners (not found in nature) and sugar alcohols/polyols.

Caloric Sweeteners

  • Dextrose
  • Glucose Syrup
  • Crystalline Fructose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Fruit Juice Concentrates
  • Maltodextrin
  • Trehalose
  • Stevia (not FDA approved)

Artificial Sweeteners

  • Saccharin
  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame-K
  • Sucralose
  • Neotame

Sugar Alcohols / Polyols

  • Sorbitol
  • Mannitol
  • Xylitol
  • Erythritol
  • D-Tagatose
  • Isomalt (Palatinat)
  • Lacititol
  • Maltitol
  • HSH Hydrogenated Starch Hydroslsates, Maltito
  • Glycerol
  • Polydextrose

Artifical Sweeteners, Not Yet Approved by FDA

  • Alitame
  • Cyclamates
  • Neohesperdine
  • Thaumatin

Source: The Sugar Association