Sustainability and Stevia

When facing their role in combating climate change, have you asked yourself:

-How efficient and beneficial is it to allocate a hectare of crop to a certain sweetener?

-Is it good for the environment, is it good for our health?

-Should we promote crop diversity or try to get all the ingredients from a handful of mono-crops?

-Which crops represent an opportunity for diversification?

-Which are the additional services provided by each of these crops?

 


Naturelly and SWT: Leading the healthy sweetness revolution together

In the crowded children’s drinks market, manufacturers are facing an increasingly severe problem: How do you successfully formulate a delicious drink aimed at young consumers, but also make sure that your product is great for both them and their wider environment?

With the NHS recommending that children under the age of 6 keep sugar consumption below 19g a day, it is more important than ever to ensure that products coming to market can align with the expectations of consumers and concerned parents alike.

For producers who are now facing UK government measures to deter consumers from making potentially unhealthy choices – such as the sugar tax introduced in 2018 – ensuring that new products are low-sugar by design can help to give them an edge when trying to outsell the competition.

Naturelly is one of the companies that has needed to find a solution to this conundrum. Founded by the Dempsey family, who dreamed of a low-mess, environmentally sustainable solution to products already on offer, the company grappled with the demand for a satisfying sweetness profile but also low calories and no added sugar.

This issue has been compounded by the requirements of the Naturelly target market. Lending itself easily to the shelves of high-end retailers, such as Waitrose, Ocado and Holland and Barrett, there was a natural assumption that these products would be good for children and also conforming to the strict sustainability standards that are fast becoming the norm.

The solution to their issues was to engage SWT Stevia. SWT have been able to lend their technical expertise to reformulate Naturelly products using Stevia Clear. This provides the balance of flavour and sweetness demanded by children, but also allows Naturelly to satisfy the demands of parents by creating a no added sugar product.

Using Stevia in place of traditional sweeteners and sugars allows producers to create a product that feels and tastes like the original recipe, but with few of the downsides of using cane sugar. Beyond simply being healthier, SWT Stevia allows companies to provide consumers with ethically sourced and environmentally friendly ingredients. For those who are looking to make sustainable choices in their regular shopping, SWT provides the perfect opportunity to make a real difference to themselves and those around them.

This reformulation has proved to be a success. Naturelly products have become top sellers and a hit with children and parents alike. As a company, Naturelly have won a host of awards, and are at the forefront of a revolution in healthy, sweet products that don’t cost the earth, or the health of the consumers who love them.

In testament to the excellent working relationship between both parties, Dean Dempsey, founder of Naturelly has called SWT “a pleasure to work with, always friendly, supportive with a nothing is impossible attitude. We have sometimes requested difficult lead times from them, and they have always delivered.”

Additionally, SWT’s 100% non-GMO, all-natural production processes mean that happy children are enjoying nothing but wholesome ingredients. On top of this, the environmentally friendly effects of Stevia production over traditional cane sugars mean that every purchase of a Naturelly product is helping to protect the environment and to promote sustainable farming across Latin America and the United States.

As a result of the fantastic products that have come out of this venture, SWT and Naturelly are moving forward together to ensure that all future drinks and snacks continue to be as successful as their current line. As a thank you to SWT for their support, advice and success, Naturelly have helped to introduce a range of new commercial partners and allow stevia to redefine what is possible within the industry.


Why the Stevia Plant is so much more than just sweetness

Did you know that stevia leaves have been used for centuries by the Guarani Indians in Paraguay and the South of Brazil? The stevia plant is full of unknown properties. It produces the most sustainable sweetness that can be farmed, it contains fiber, sweetening molecules and antioxidants. Get to know a bit more of this wonderful plant in our infographic.

Read more


Dairy and Non-Dairy Industry trends: The environment, gut health and the move towards healthy sweetness.

One of the main drivers for change are the consumers themselves, who are by now fully aware of the environmental benefits of making ethical food choices and have begun to rewards manufacturers who take this preference into account. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of ensuring a healthy immune system, and this presents an opportunity for plant-based dairy producers to effectively communicate how they can help to use their products to support immune system health.

Both within the dairy industry and the increasing number of non-dairy alternatives, we see increasing trends towards health and immunological benefits, with environmental concerns being reflected through increasing consumer choices of plant-based products and the re-focusing of the nutritional structures of products through the reinforcing of healthy sugar replacements. This is in contrast to previous efforts, which traditionally focus on fat reduction.

 

Immunologic benefits and Gut Health

Digestive health is increasingly recognised by dietitians and consumers alike as being an integral contributor to overall health and wellbeing. Scientific research has found links between the gut microbiome and many aspects of health, including mental health, skin health and even obesity.

Formulating for functional gut health, by using ingredients such as pro- and prebiotics, fibre and other functional gut health ingredients will resonate with consumers seeking a healthy and balanced digestive system. In Latin America, most launches of dairy products include the fortification of Vitamins and Calcium.

Source: Mintel

 

In addition to these trends, an increasing number of regions are embracing ancient dietary wisdom as a means of boosting immunity levels. As some of the functional claims relating to gut and mood have been backed by scientific findings, ingredients such as ginger and turmeric are on the rise globally.

 

Plant-based alternatives and environment impact.

Consumers of plant-based products are, by nature, informed and aware of environmental issues. This demonstrates the need for brands to clearly communicate their commitment to sustainability, through strategies such as carbon reduction, local sourcing and short supply chains as well as providing eco-friendly packaging.

The proportion of consumers adopting vegan diets remains niche, but consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental and ethical costs of intensive dairy farming. It is interesting that only 21% of non-dairy milk consumers in the US do so because they are consuming fewer animal products (Mintel, 2021). This highlights the importance of environmentally friendly, grass fed dairy production.

Even within the vegan industry, the source of raw materials has become increasingly relevant from an environmental point of view. In this aspect, brands need to tap into the growing popularity of oat, coconut and pea proteins as consumers edge away from more established ingredients such as almond and soy, which are increasingly being questioned owing to their comparatively large environmental footprints.

Source: Mintel

 

Nutrition Structure and the prevalence of Non-Sugar

With government regulation looking to fight obesity in the vast majority of countries, a focus on health, wellness and dietary awareness has grown up, looking to surpass these otherwise basic regulations. While restrictive laws using black seals both for high sugar and high saturated fat products, such as the Chilean Front labelling law or the Mexican Nom. 51, it is interesting to note that consumers themselves are leading trends, as they become aware of serious research highlighting the beneficial effect of specific fats and healthy sugar alternatives, as well as reinforcing the negative effects of a high sugar and fructose diet. This can be seen in the claim trends in North America, where the no-added sugar has become the norm, and the use of fat and cholesterol as ingredient in formulation have declined dramatically.

 

Source: Mintel

This reinforces the importance of the design of ‘360-degree’ health benefits for the nutritional characteristics of products. In this regard, the usage of natural, non-laxative and beneficial ingredients for the development of sweetness - including stevia - is on the rise. As is becoming the norm in all areas, the environmental and responsible sourcing of the sweetening systems - including the carbon and water footprints - have become a key component in the design of foods. Genuinely innovative companies are now using sugar replacement as an opportunity to provide healthy products which provide benefits beyond sweetness and boost the nutritional benefits of products which are well-regarded by consumers, such as yoghurts and other fermented milk products.

Consumer demand is increasingly driving development in this field - even more quickly than the introduction of anti-obesity legislation. With a greater understanding of the importance of gut health, sustainability and ethical choices, producers are seeing the beginning of the greatest shift in consumer trends since the advent of processed food. It is becoming increasingly clear that to seriously compete and for products to be considered desireable, formulation needs to hold sustainability – both environmental and health – as the central tenet of the concept.

 

 


SWT Stevia opens applications center in Chicago, USA

SWT Stevia announced the opening of its new state-of-the-art applications center in Lisle, Illinois. The new facility will have the capability to create all manner of beverage, bakery and snack products to help customers develop outstanding natural sugar-free and reduced sugar products.

“Our goal was to create a space that will be a destination for our clients to partner and co-develop products with natural and organic sweetness profiles to meet consumer expectations,” said vice president of sales, Mark Robertson.

SWT Stevia is a vertically integrated stevia extract producer farming its own stevia plants in North and South Carolina, as well as in Mexico.  with nearly two decades in the market and extensive experience in sugar substitution formulation in South America, Asia and Europe. SWT’s unique extraction and purification process is100% water based and does not utilize any alcohol, solvents nor enzymatic modifications. This clean process is fundamental in how SWT’s products achieve a natural sweet taste.

 

http://digital.foodbusinessnews.net/sosland/fbn/food-business-news-april-27-2021/index.php#/p/64

 

 

 


Stevia and our Metabolism

Have you wondered how do we “sense” sweetness in our mouths?  Do all sweeteners interact with our body in the same way?

Does stevia has calories or raises our insulin levels? Does stevia has any interaction with different parts of our body, or only in our mouths?

Learn briefly about how stevia sweeteners interact with our cells, and how it is metabolized until it is degraded and excreted.


Pushing the boundaries in search of the perfect, healthy sweetness

Thanks to our expert team involved in every step of the growing process, SWT Stevia are finding new ways to extract the maximum from every plant, while conserving our trademark 100% natural water-based processing system.

 

The sun sets in Laurinburg, NC. Hal has analysed the different stevia leaves which are ripening in his crop and he drives home with a sweet taste in his mouth. It’s September and his plants are still accumulating the sweetness gathered from the sun, without showing any sign of flowering.  Delaying flowering is key to achieve a high accumulation of glycosides, and therefore granting sweet, delicious stevia leaves. When he thinks of ripening, he thinks of the natural process his leaves follow to achieve a perfect sweetness, out of enzymatic or biotechnology processes. That is the way stevia was meant to be.

Learning to get the maximum power out of every single leaf helps to make SWT Stevia the natural choice for healthy, sustainable sweetness. In order to make sure that we deliver the flavour you expect, coupled with the consistency and sustainability that set us apart from the competition, our teams of bio-scientists are constantly working to ensure that we find new ways to make the most of this incredible plant.

The stevia plant is a complex one. Producing stevia is a long and specialised process, requiring years of expert knowledge and understanding. Steviol glycosides are the natural compounds that give the stevia leaf its unique and exceptional tastes. These form the building blocks for our delicious SWT flavour and can be up to 300 times sweeter than cane sugar and other traditional non intense sweeteners. Considering the intensity of the sweetness provided by stevia plant sweeteners, and how our body specifically breaks up their molecules before excreting them, it is completely safe for diabetics and those pursuing a low sugar diet.

It is these compounds which we are looking to maximise in order to be able to ensure that every bite tastes better than ever and helps everyone who enjoys our stevia to live their best possible lives by eliminating unhealthy foods forever.

When the Stevia plant flowers - a natural part of the cultivation process, the number of glycosides reduces significantly. This makes the plant taste less sweet as a result and to stop accumulating glycosides. The flowering process has required us understand with precision which genetic mechanisms and environmental trigger this unique process of plants. By understanding deeply this phenomena, we have focused our  research in order to delay as much as possible this process and allow stevia plants to accumulate as much glycosides as possible, all whilst ensuring that the essential trace elements that stevia can help to deliver remain absolutely intact.

Our team at SWT is working to ensure that this flowering delay of the plant does not result in an inferior product for our customers, by employing cutting-edge plant selection techniques. Grafting plants and experimenting with different types of flower means that SWT stevia will always deliver high-quality and natural healthy sweetness, as well as lead research into hardier, more winter-resistant species of Stevia that can drive the sweetness revolution forward.

By understanding and grafting these plants, aging from only 10 days right up to 30, we are able to unlock the secrets of improved sweetness, which we can pass on to our partners through our natural refinery processes. The results of these examinations are analysed in our on-site laboratories using the plants themselves, and all our findings are used to improve our crops, to deliver better-than-ever products that provided sugar-free nutrition and nourishment.

In the fight for a healthy lifestyle, and in combatting obesity, diabetes and poor health in general, SWT are helping to create a plant for all seasons, which will deliver the very best in flavour while refusing to compromise on our 100% natural water-based refinery processes and maintain our commitment to zero-GMO usage in our stevia products.

 


SWT Stevia brings the healthy sweetness revolution to the UK

With the commencement of operations in our incredible, brand-new UK headquarters, SWT Stevia introduces a new market to the delicious taste of stevia and takes a huge leap towards transforming the health of the nation.

 

SWT Stevia are thrilled to announce our entry into the UK market with Burnley-based SWT UK labs. SWT is  working with local colleges, universities and suppliers to ensure that not only does fantastic, healthy sweetness cross the Atlantic to the United Kingdom, but that SWT are at the forefront of research into a better, more delicious future.

Access to the world-class scientific experience and facilities in the UK, coupled with our 100% natural, non-GMO stevia grown in South America is the perfect recipe for a new, ground-breaking type of healthy sweetness. With carbon footprints and sustainability becoming an ever more serious goal for businesses, the creation of amazing UK-created sugar substitutes has the potential to make a lasting difference to the food production landscape across the country.

Having created strong links with local facilities, SWT offers tangible changes to consumers across the country. As a company that is motivated by improving nutrition and providing health sweetness, the chance to meet Public Health England’s target of a 20% sugar reduction is an amazing opportunity.

While Stevia based solutions have become progressively known in the UK, the opportunity to demonstrate its ability to transform nutritionwith an excellent taste,  and to change lives is an incredibly exciting one. From school dinners to haute cuisine to bakery and beverages, there are a world of opportunities for the Great British people to discover. The conversation is moving not only towards how to make our food better, but how to make it more sustainable, and we believe that SWT offers the perfect solution to these questions.

We see SWT UK beyond what a sweetness supplier delivers. In an environment where small steps can make a big different, our interest in empowering the local community to succeed through a combination of fantastic, healthy sweetness and solid investment in an area with enormous potential provides everyone involved with the opportunity to thrive as part of a healthier future.


The building blocks of healthy sweetness

Most effort in sweetness characterization has focused on a few trending terms when describing an alternative sweeetener, such as “just like sugar”, or “a thousand time sweeter than sugar” or “no aftertaste”. These are all valid terms, but not precise or meaningful enough. We all agree that sweetness is a hedonic experience and should stay like that. As similar to sugar as possible. But, what is the meaning of being similar to sugar, defined as sucrose.  It may mean many different things. Let’s focus on those related to the volume, structural role of sugar in foods, and what happens when we aim to replace them by alternative compounds:

 

Typical sugar replacements, in terms of bulking are:

 

  • Other sugars: Here we are excluding confusion induction synonymous expressions of sucrose, like coconut sugar, dates, apple juice or honey, as ultimately these are slightly unpurified versions of sucrose. Let’s think of Fructose, which is 20% to 40% sweeter than sugar (depending on temperature and pH). While sweeter than sugar, fructose loses its crystallinity even at room temperature in humid conditions, as a result of what is called the glass transition temperature, which is characteristic of each compound (Correia et al, 2009). It actually becomes amorphous at much lower temperatures and moistures than sucrose, or glucose, which makes it difficult to manage it industrially. Therefore, it becomes chewy, sticky and is quite difficult to use and preserve, both as an ingredient, but also in final products.

 

  • Polyols: Most of them are synthetic, enzymatically produced or fermented. A couple of notable exemptions are naturally occurring or spontaneously fermented (in NON GMO microorganisms). This is the case of Erythritol and Xylitol. While these compounds have an ugly name, they have several interesting properties from a functional, metabolic and health point of view (Wölnerhanssen et al, 2020), including solubility, hygroscopicity, anti-diabetic, intestine absorption and a lack of Maillard reaction occurrence.

 

  • Fibers: Fibers are non-digestible carbohydrates fermented in our large intestine, as a definition. They can rather be soluble or insoluble. However, just as our digestive system is not able to digest them, they are digested by our microflora, which has turned to be far more relevant that what we imagined in our immunology, behavior and homeostasis, just to name a few aspects. They are so relevant, that even breast milk includes fibers and prebiotic compounds (Human Milk Oligosaccharides) (Plaza et al, 2018), which are not digested by us, but by the microorganisms in our guts. How something can be so important that even the first food we have as human beings includes it?. Our mothers feed their first meal to us and our microorganisms at the same time. Let`s get back to fibers, some of them are soluble, others insoluble. Industrially, most soluble fibers are obtained from Chicory, Agave or synthesized from Fructose and Dextrose. Insoluble fibers are diverse as nature, and can be byproducts from lemon zest and many other crops, providing outstanding rheological (texture related) properties to drinks and foods.

 

So, which physical and functional properties should we look at when replacing sugar or sucrose?

 

 

  • Sugar is a crystalline compound: At room temperature and moisture, sugar behaves as a crystalline compound. This means that it gets sticky only when it gets humid and it provides the perfect structure giving gloss to cakes, tarts, sweets and famous desserts such as creme brûlée, or the shining crystals above a donut. This crystalline condition is enormously relevant also to allow a good chocolate to have what we call “ a good snap”. So, when we replace sugar, we need to think of those compounds that can provide a good crystalline condition under storage and consumption conditions. Inulin fiber will never provide that crystalline condition, so characteristic of sugar replacements should take into consideration this aspect. Polyols, for example, are crystalline compounds under similar conditions to sugar so they perform very well when replacing solid structures of sugar.

 

  • Dancing with solubility is an art: Ice creams stay soft depending on the temperature at which a saturated system of sugars and milk solids crystallize. Gummy bears are transparent because at the concentration where these compounds become perfectly chewy, sucrose is in a concentration where it does not become a crystal. Erythritol will crystallize in that same condition (as a result of a much lower solubility than sugar), Xylitol will perform quite effectively as sugar, and inulin or fibers, while soluble, will not provide the right combination of viscosity and chewiness needed.

 

  • The power of heat: Whenever we think of pound cakes, cupcakes or baked doughs, the browning of the dough in the oven is a key element in terms of flavor development of the dough, as well as in the aspect of it. Technically, this is what we call Maillard browning reaction, and is the results of a reaction between sugars and amino acids. This reaction provides color, taste but also is relevant because of the formation of non -desired compounds, such as acrylamides. Some sucrose replacements, like erythritol, have a neglect able Maillard browning reactions with amino acids. Others, such as Tagatose, Allulose or Isomalt have huge Maillard reaction rates. This may be desirable in specific deserts, like Creme Brûlée, but may turn baking into a difficult operation, as dough development and cooking may happen long after the product looks, tastes and feels totally burnt. Combined systems may be a good solution for this, as well as understanding the specific content of amino-acids and reducing sugars in foods.

 

And what about the health impact of these bulking, structuring sucrose replacement compounds?

Every voluminous food, i.e, that is not digested, needs eventually to be excreted. Here is where all of these compounds differ substantially.

 

Partially metabolized: Compounds like Tagatose and Maltitol are partially digested. During this process, while Maltitol is partially metabolized into Glucose and Sorbitol (and absorbed up to 80%), Tagatose is metabolized through a very similar pathway to the metabolism of fructose in the liver (EFSA 2016), providing 3 kcal/g and de-novo lipogenesis.

 

Non Metabolized: Non metabolized compounds, like Alullose, Erythritol or fibers, have different metabolic fates. While Allulose and Erythritol are absorbed in the early small intestine, and excreted principally through urine, fibers are partially digested by our microflora in our colon. This is extremely relevant, as when it comes to Polyols, those which are not excreted through urine or metabolized, create an osmotic shock in our intestines and produce diarrhea, when in excess consumption usually above 10 g to 20 g per portion, depending on the Polyol. On the other hand, fibers like inulin or fructo-oligosaccharides, feed specifically beneficial bacteria in our intestines as Bifidobacteria, which has numerous positive effects into our health. However, fiber fermentation by bacteria, while healthy, can provoke bloating and other uncomfortable symptoms when in excess. Depending on the length of the fibers (and therefore their solubility), tolerance limits (that maximum dose where a person does not have any unpleasant effect) can range as well from 10 to 20 g of fiber per portion.

 

Building sugar replacement comes down to the building blocks that replace it’s sweetness and structure. We should look carefully into sound assembles which make from sugar replacement a wonderful opportunity to improve our health.

 

References

 

  1. Natália T. Correia, Hermínio P. Diogo, Joaquim J. Moura Ramos, Slow Molecular Mobility in the Amorphous Solid State of Fructose: Fragility and Aging, Journal of Food Science, 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01363.x, 74, 9, (E526-E533), (2009).

 

  1. EFSA NDA Panel (EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies), 2016. Draft Scientific Opinion on the energy conversion factor of D-tagatose for labelling purposes. EFSA Journal 2016;volume(issue):NNNN, 14 pp. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2016.NNNN

 

  1. Plaza-Díaz J, Fontana L, Gil A. Human Milk Oligosaccharides and Immune System Development. Nutrients. 2018 Aug 8;10(8):1038. doi: 10.3390/nu10081038. PMID: 30096792; PMCID: PMC6116142.

 

  1. Wölnerhanssen BK, Meyer-Gerspach AC, Beglinger C, Islam MS. Metabolic effects of the natural sweeteners xylitol and erythritol: A comprehensive review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(12):1986-1998. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2019.1623757. Epub 2019 Jun 16. PMID: 31204494.

 

 

 

 


Discovering healthy sweetness, through an understanding of what it is not

Much has been said on the topic of sweetness, and how we can best reduce the burden of chronic disease by influencing dietary choices. This has led to an appropriate focus on the role of sugar. However, most of the current efforts from lawmakers are designed to chase people away from sugar, without a clear direction for these consumers to move, or even a clear understanding of what constitutes ‘healthy’ sweetness in the first place. Typically, the discussion focuses on sugar, calories and the glycemic index, or on the differences between artificial and natural sweeteners. Consumers, meanwhile, are beginning to move ahead of this curve, and are increasingly deciding which products they best trust to deliver this outcome.

Below are a few key differentiators that may help you to build some ideas into a long-term solution for healthy sweetness, providing the opportunity for consumers to select your product as a natural part of this transition:

Are all sugars the same?

The answer is no.

While we could rate sugars in terms of their calorific content or their glycemic index, their metabolic rate would be far more relevant. Theoretically, we can say that glucose, fructose and saccharose have the same number of calories (4kcal/g) and that tagatose is a lower calorie monosaccharide (arguably between 1.5 and 3 kcal /g (EFSA, 2016)).  We can also note that fructose and tagatose do not possess a high glycemic index, while glucose and saccharose do.

Do these differences make fructose and tagatose healthier molecules than sugar or glucose? Based on research, they do not.

Sucrose - or sugar, as it is better known, is comprised of glucose and fructose. Glucose metabolism allows for two key outcomes.

  1. Storage as glycogen in multiple tissues (including muscle)
  2. Creation of a feedback loop that tightly regulates glucose and its metabolites

 

Blood glucose rises as a response to meals, and insulin is secreted to allow proper glucose uptake by cells. When there is dysfunction in this pathway, such as insulin resistance (pre-diabetes), the levels and duration of blood glucose elevations are higher. Fructose consumption on its own does not acutely trigger a blood glucose and insulin response. However, ironically, one key cause of chronic insulin resistance is overconsumption of fructose. – which also acts the trigger for the creation of this issue in animal testing conditions.

Glucose and fructose are centrally metabolized by the liver into triglycerides, both by downregulating beta oxidation (fat burning) and by up-regulating the genetic pathways of de novo lipogenesis (DNL) (Rebollo et al, 2014).  This increases blood triglycerides, as well as visceral fat accumulation, impacting the functions of those affected organs – the liver and the pancreas in particular. Fructose has been demonstrated to generate more liver fat more rapidly, versus glucose and sucrose, due to both DNL and to increased endotoxin-induced inflammation (Herck et al, 2017; Bergheim et al, 2008).

Fructose is also related to a depletion of inorganic phosphate (Abdelmalek et al 2012), which therefore negatively affects the ATP (or energetic potential) of our cells, causing an intracellular stress response.  Tagatose, while lower in calories, follows the same metabolic pathway as fructose (EFSA, 2016). In order to fulfil the ultimate goal of improving health through the regulation and labeling of sugars, this process should be carefully reviewed in order to provide the right stimuli and differentiation within different sugar molecules, both for consumers and for food formulators. While consumer demand may move more swiftly than regulatory change, those who take the lead in this process are likely to reap the rewards.

 

Artificial sweeteners are not metabolized by our body, so do they behave as inert compounds?

Sucralose is a compound with a misleadingly natural-sounding name, as it is the result of an artificial chlorination of sugar. Because sucralose cannot be metabolized by our bodies, we assume it to be inert. According to a growing body of research however, it is becoming apparent that it is anything but inert. The synthetic triple chlorination of the sugar molecule produces the sucralose molecule – which possess a high affinity for our sweet receptors T1R2-T1R3.

Sweetness is a highly regulated process triggered in our mouths, which sends signals to our brain and initiates a cascade of reactions, including of course, the specific place and time where sweet molecules should be metabolized. The way sweetness is perceived by our cell receptors is not trivial, much like the subsequent responses of our metabolisms.

Many sweet molecules are degraded and metabolized after being sensed. Sugars and other naturally originated sweeteners, such as stevia, are instead partially or completely degraded as they pass through the digestive process. Compound such as saccharin and sucralose, on the other hand, are not degraded by our metabolism.

This is relevant, as despite the fact that we do not feel ‘sweetness’ in our livers, our pancreas’ or our fat cells, these organs remain totally capable of sensing this sweetness and can modify metabolic performance as a result. This means that, in effect, any molecule that has not been metabolized or degraded will eventually interfere and stimulate other cells in our body, out of reach of our otherwise finely tuned metabolism.

Recent research demonstrates that sucralose triggers an enhanced insulin response from our bodies when fed together with sugars (Letrit et al, 2018) and enhances the glucose uptake capacity through the enhanced synthesis of sweet receptors in lipid cells (Sanchez Tapia et al, 2019), negatively modifying the microflora profile of our guts (Freeley et al, 2014; Bian X et al, 2017).

Once we understand how profoundly sweetness impacts the coordinated metabolism of glucose and how it involves the disappearance or inactivation of the stimuli, we grasp the negative impact of an inert, un-metabolizable, artificial molecule such as sucralose. This is not the case, however, for natural stevia, which is instead degraded into steviol, and which has no negative effects along our digestive system, microflora and metabolism (Philippaert et al, 2017; Gardana et al, 2003). Furthermore, stevia is non-calorific, and thus does not feed into the metabolic pathways of sucrose nor fructose.

Considering the increasing weight of knowledge arising in the field of sweetness and sweeteners, we should once again consider the categories in which we group sweeteners. There are, absolutely, extremely relevant concepts arising beyond intensity of sweetness, calorific reward, naturality and glycemia. These concepts should seriously be taken into consideration as part of the various ongoing sugar replacement laws and bills that are currently under discussion worldwide.

Those who implement smart policies and smart business strategies, consistent with serious scientific evidence about healthy sweetness, will be rewarded.

 

References:

Abdelmalek MF, Lazo M, Horska A, et al. Higher dietary fructose is associated with impaired hepatic adenosine triphosphate homeostasis in obese individuals with type 2 diabetes. Hepatology. 2012;56(3):952-960. doi:10.1002/hep.25741

Bian X, Chi L, Gao B, Tu P, Ru H, Lu K. Gut Microbiome Response to Sucralose and Its Potential Role in Inducing Liver Inflammation in Mice. Front Physiol. 2017;8:487. Published 2017 Jul 24. doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.00487

Bergheim I. et al, (2008), ‘Antibiotics protect against fructose-induced hepatic lipid accumulation in mice: Role of endotoxin’, Journal of Hepatology, 48:6, pp. 983-992

EFSA NDA Panel (EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies), 2016. Draft Scientific Opinion on the energy conversion factor of D-tagatose for labelling purposes. EFSA Journal 2016;volume(issue):NNNN, 14 pp. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2016.NNNN

Feehley, T., Nagler, C. The weighty costs of non-caloric sweeteners. Nature 514, 176–177 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13752

Gardana C, Simonetti P, Canzi E, Zanchi R, Pietta P. Metabolism of stevioside and rebaudioside A from Stevia rebaudiana extracts by human microflora. J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Oct 22;51(22):6618-22. doi: 10.1021/jf0303619. PMID: 14558786.

Lertrit A, Srimachai S, Saetung S, Chanprasertyothin S, Chailurkit LO, Areevut C, Katekao P, Ongphiphadhanakul B, Sriphrapradang C. Effects of sucralose on insulin and glucagon-like peptide-1 secretion in healthy subjects: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition. 2018 Nov;55-56:125-130. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2018.04.001. Epub 2018 Apr 21. PMID: 30005329.

Philippaert, K., Pironet, A., Mesuere, M. et al. Steviol glycosides enhance pancreatic beta-cell function and taste sensation by potentiation of TRPM5 channel activity. Nat Commun 8, 14733 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms14733

Rebollo, A. et al. Liquid fructose downregulates Sirt1 expression and activity and impairs the oxidation of fatty acids in rat and human liver cells. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1841, 514–524 (2014).

Sánchez-Tapia M, Martínez-Medina J, Tovar AR, Torres N. Natural and Artificial Sweeteners and High Fat Diet Modify Differential Taste Receptors, Insulin, and TLR4-Mediated Inflammatory Pathways in Adipose Tissues of Rats. Nutrients. 2019;11(4):880. Published 2019 Apr 19. doi:10.3390/nu11040880

Van Herck, M.A. et al, (2017), Animal Models of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease—A Starter’s Guide, Nutrients, 9(10): 1072