Sugar Reduction

Sugar has come under increasing public scrutiny from policy makers and consumers due to its caloric contribution to the diet and the rise of overweight and obese populations of children and adults throughout the world. This has led the food industry to partially or fully replace sugar with nonnutritive and low-calorie sweeteners in many foods and beverages. However, this is not a simple formulation change due to potential differences in taste, sweetness intensity and duration, loss of functionality (e.g., texture), and consumer concerns about the safety of alternative sweeteners.

Below is a compendium of 13 review papers and studies from IFT’s scientific journals that provides the latest science and research on sugar, nonnutritive and low-calorie sweeteners, and their application and functionality in food and beverage products. These articles discuss sugar’s role in product formulation, molecular mechanisms of sweet taste, the safety of sugar substitutes, taste optimization using sweetener blends, novel production methods of low-calorie sweeteners, stability of low-calorie sweeteners, and sensory characteristics of various sweeteners.


Why Sugar Is Added to Food: Food Science 101
Kara R. Goldfein and Joanne L. Slavin
The new U.S. Nutrition Facts panel includes the addition of added sugars. Through deductive reasoning, labeling added sugars is one tactic to potentially curb the obesity epidemic in the United States. This review discusses the functions of sugar in food and shows that the methods used to replace added sugars in foods can result in no reduction in calorie content or improvement in nutrient density. Without clear benefit to the consumer for added sugars labeling, this review highlights the complex business obstacles, costs, and consumer confusion resulting from the new rule.


Sweet Taste in Man: A Review
B Meyers and M.S. Brewer
A greater understanding of the molecular mechanisms of sweet taste has profound significance for the food industry as well as for consumers. Understanding the mechanism by which sweet taste is elicited by saccharides, peptides, and proteins will assist science and industry in their search for sweet substances with fewer negative health effects. This review discusses early theories of the sweet receptor, recent research of sweetener chemoreception of nonprotein and protein ligands, homology modeling, the transduction pathway, the possibility of the sweet receptor functioning allosterically, as well as the implications of allelic variation.


Low-calorie Sweeteners and Other Sugar Substitutes: A Review of the Safety Issues
Manfred Kroger, Kathleen Meister, and Ruth Kava
Sugar-free or reduced-sugar foods and beverages are very popular in the United States and other countries, and the sweeteners that make them possible are among the most conspicuous ingredients in the food supply. Extensive scientific research has demonstrated the safety of several low-calorie sweeteners currently approved for use in foods in the United States and other countries. This review looks at the safety of acesulfame K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, alitame, cyclamate, stevia, and polyols.


Sweetener Blend Optimization by Using Mixture Design Methodology and the Electronic Tongue
Megan E. Waldrop and Carolyn F. Ross
This study demonstrated how blending sweeteners using a mixture design can create a more accepted flavor profile and allows more flexibility in sweetener choice for product developers based on production and quality constraints. The results also indicate the potential of coconut sugar to be used in commercial food and beverage products. In addition, the electronic tongue was shown to have the capacity to predict sweetener differences, an important ability when determining sweetener substitutes in food and beverage products.


Sensory Characteristics and Relative Sweetness of Tagatose and Other Sweeteners
Tomomi Fujimaru, Jin-Hee Park, and Juyun Lim
This study investigated the sensory characteristics and relative sweetness of tagatose compared to other sweeteners (i.e., sucrose, sucralose, erythritol, rebaudioside A). Study results suggest that tagatose elicits a sweet taste without undesirable qualities over a wide range of concentrations. Tagatose produced about the same relative sweetness to sucrose across the concentrations tested, while the relative sweetness of other sweeteners was highly concentration dependent. The data provide a general guideline when considering the use of tagatose and other sweeteners in foods and beverages.


Technological and Functional Applications of Low-Calorie Sweeteners from Lactic Acid Bacteria
F. Patra, S.K. Tomar, and S. Arora
Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) have been extensively used for centuries as starter cultures to carry out food fermentations and are looked upon as burgeoning “cell factories” for production of food ingredients. The recent production of low-calorie sweeteners via LAB has attracted a great deal of interest among researchers, manufacturers, and consumers. Some of the sweeteners successfully produced by lactic acid bacteria include mannitol, sorbitol, tagatose, and trehalose and there is a potential to further enhance their production with the help of metabolic engineering.


Reported Use of Reduced-sugar Foods and Beverages Reflect High-quality Diets
Madeleine J. Sigman-Grant and Gloria Hsieh
The study compared the differences in nutrient and energy intakes and in quantity of food eaten of users of reduced-sugars (RS) foods and beverages with those who use only the full sugar (FS) versions of the same products. Comparisons were made between demographic characteristics, body mass index, food group servings, food intake amounts, and nutrient densities. When compared with FS users, RS users consistently reported significantly higher intakes of fruit, lower intakes of discretionary fat and added sugars, and equal or lower intakes of other foods, except for greater intake of yogurt and frozen and gelatin desserts. RS users tended to report similar or higher micronutrient intakes compared with FS users.


The Effect of Frequency of Consumption of Artificial Sweeteners on Sweetness Liking by Women
A. Mahar and L.M. Duzer
This study looked at whether a diet high in artificial sweeteners contributes to sweetness liking and preference with the same result as a diet high in sugar. The female participants evaluated orange juice samples (ranging from 0% added sucrose to 20% added sucrose) for liking of sweetness using a 9-point hedonic scale. Sensory data were analyzed to compare sweetness liking. Significant differences in liking were observed, with individuals in the high sweetened beverage intake group preferring sweeter orange juice than those in the low-intake group. Categorization by sweetener type resulted in no significant differences between the groups.


Parents’ and Children's Acceptance of Skim Chocolate Milks Sweetened by Monk Fruit and Stevia Leaf Extracts
X.E. Li, K. Lopetcharat, and M.A. Drake
Understanding consumer acceptability of skim chocolate milks sweetened with natural nonnutritive sweeteners including stevia leaf and monk fruit extracts, especially for children and parents, is important for manufacturers to produce reduced-calorie chocolate milk with an appealing natural label. This study established that chocolate milks sweetened with stevia leaf and monk fruit extracts in blends with sucrose were acceptable by young adults and children, and parents were segmented by preferred sweetener type.


Stability of the Stevia-Derived Sweetener Rebaudioside A in Solution as Affected by Ultraviolet Light Exposure
Jiewen Zhang and Leonard N. Bell
Exposure to light has an adverse effect on the stability of rebaudioside A in liquids. Proper product formulations, light-protective packaging, and cool storage conditions are strategies that will improve the stability of rebaudioside A in beverages.


Descriptive Profiles of Selected High Intensity Sweeteners (HIS), HIS Blends, and Sucrose
L.Y. Hanger, A. Lotz, and S. Lepeniotis
High intensity sweeteners (HIS) were evaluated by descriptive analysis singly (i.e., acesulfame K, aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, cyclamate) and in selected blends to determine similarity to sucrose at 4%. Results showed that blends of sweeteners were more like sucrose than any individual sweetener. Most variation among sweeteners and blends was attributed to tastes other than sweetness (e.g., off-flavor, bitter, sweet aftertaste, bitter aftertaste). Combining two or more single sweeteners made a blend more like sucrose by decreasing side tastes and/or aftertastes associated with individual sweeteners.


Perceived Taste Intensity and Duration of Nutritive and Non-nutritive Sweeteners in Water using Time-intensity (T-I) Evaluations
D.B. Ott, C.L. Edwards, and S.J. Palmer
This study compared the sweet and bitter taste characteristics of aspartame, acesulfame K, and alitame at equisweetness levels with 10% sucrose/water solutions at 22°C using the time-intensity (T-I) sensory technique. Alitame was comparable to sucrose in all taste characteristics. Aspartame had similar taste characteristics to sucrose except for having greater sweet intensities with longer duration following sample expectoration. Acesulfame K differed remarkably from sucrose.


Influence of Package Visual Cues of Sweeteners on the Sensory-Emotional Profiles of Their Products
Wisdom Wardy, Pitchayapat Chonpracha, Napapan Chokumnoyporn, Sujinda Sriwattana, Witoon Prinyawiwatkul, and Wannita Jirangrat
Consumers’ emotional responses to food constitute an important aspect of product understanding in addition to sensory attributes for enhanced prediction of success in the marketplace. Sweetness defines acceptance of foods with cultural significance more so than the other basic tastes, and may be a principal source of food-evoked emotion. This study examined the otherwise subtle effects of the packet color of nonnutritive sweeteners on emotional responses, sweetness perception, and overall liking of products. Findings support theories that posit additive effects of color and labeling cues on flavor perception, and provide further evidence of their impact on consumer emotions.