Researchers have found new sugar substitutes in citrus fruits that could change the food and beverage industry

Researchers have found new sugar substitutes in citrus fruits that could change the food and beverage industry

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Americans’ love for sugar can be a deadly attraction that sometimes leads to major health problems, including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Finding natural, non-calorie alternatives to sugar is desirable but difficult. However, researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have made a major breakthrough — for the first time discovering new natural sweeteners in citrus fruits.

This discovery opens opportunities for the food industry to produce foods and drinks with lower sugar content and fewer calories while maintaining sweetness and flavor using natural products.

Yu Wang, associate professor of food sciences at UF/IFAS, directed the multi-year project that found eight new sweeteners, or sweeteners, in 11 citrus cultivars.

“We were able to identify a natural source of the artificial sweetener, oxime V, that had not previously been identified from any natural source,” said Wang, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Florida. . “This creates expanded opportunities for citrus growers and for cultivar selection to get high yields of sweeteners.”

Replacing and reducing sugar in processed foods is a long-term goal for both the health care system and the food and beverage industry. Consumers want sweet-tasting orange juice, but are also concerned about excessive sugar consumption. Identification of sweeteners and candy-enhancing compounds could provide a solution to the “sugar bias” of the citrus industry.

So far, reducing sugar in food without making up for sweetness can reduce the taste of most foods. Replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners that contain no calories such as saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame can negatively affect flavor characteristics by leaving a bitter and metallic aftertaste. Consumers have shown a growing preference for naturally derived sweeteners that closely resemble the sensory profile of sugar. Even now, even natural, zero-calorie sweeteners still have some licorice-like and bitter tastes. While natural sweeteners are currently derived from fruit, some fruits are difficult to grow.

In addition to trying to find actual sweeteners in citrus fruits, researchers have looked for sweetness enhancers that can significantly reduce the amount of sugar required to achieve the same level of perceived sweetness. To date, only six artificial sweeteners and two natural sweeteners/sweetness enhancers have been created and used by the food industry that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These also have the negative side effects of an unpleasant taste and are expensive to produce.

Eleven selections were selected from the UF/IFAS Citrus Breeding Program for their unique and exceptional flavours. These cultivars included UF 914 (a hybrid of grapefruit), EV-2 and OLL-20 (both sweet orange). Mandarins, including Sugar Belle, Bingo, 13-51, 18A-4-46, 18A-9-39, 18A-10-38, were also included in the research project.

Wang’s research could increase opportunities for the food industry to produce foods and beverages with lower sugar and calorie content while maintaining sweetness and taste using natural products, and the research methodology suggested that efficiencies for identifying flavor metabolites could be improved. This research was recently published in Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

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more information:
Zhixin Wang et al, Natural sweeteners and sweetness-enhancing compounds identified in citrus fruits using an effective metabolite-based screening strategy, Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (2022). DOI: 10.1021 / acs.jafc.2c03515

Presented by the University of Florida

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