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September 20, 2022

Americans’ love of sugar can be a dangerous addiction that sometimes leads to serious health problems, including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Finding natural, non-caloric sugars is necessary but difficult. However, researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have made a breakthrough – finding new natural sweeteners in citrus for the first time.

This research opens up opportunities for the food industry to produce foods and beverages that are low in sugar and low in calories while maintaining sweetness and flavor using ingredients naturally.

Yu Wang, assistant professor of food science at UF/FAS, led the multi-year project that discovered eight new sweeteners or sweeteners in 11 citrus cultivars.

“We were able to identify a natural source for a special sweetener, oxime V, that has never been identified before from any natural source,” said Wang, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Florida. . “This provides expanded opportunities for citrus growers and for breeding cultivars that are selected to produce high yields of the sweet fruit.”

Replacing and reducing sugar in processed foods is a long-term goal of the health and food and beverage industry. Consumers want a sweet orange juice, but are also concerned about the amount of sugar they consume. Identifying sweeteners and sweeteners may provide a solution to the “Sugar Bias” for the citrus industry.

So far, reducing sugar in foods without compensating for sweetness can make many foods less palatable. Replacing sugar with sweet, non-caloric sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose and aspartame can affect taste buds by leaving a bitter and metallic aftertaste. Consumers have shown an increasing preference for natural sweeteners that more closely resemble the sensation of sugar. To this day, even natural, zero-calorie sweeteners still contain some aftertaste such as licorice and bitterness. Although the most common sweeteners are derived from fruits now, some fruits are difficult to grow.

In addition to trying to find real sweeteners in citrus, researchers have been looking for sweeteners that can reduce the amount of sugar needed to achieve the same level of sweetness. To date, only six sweeteners and two natural/artificial sweeteners have been developed and used by the food industry. approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It also has the negative effects of bad taste and is expensive to produce.

Eleven selections from the UF/FAS citrus breeding program were chosen for unique flavors. These cultivars include UF 914 (a grape variety), and EV-2 and OLL-20 (both sweet oranges). 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 can lead to increased opportunities for the food industry to produce foods and drinks with low sugar and calories while maintaining the sweetness and taste using natural products, The research method suggested can also improve the quality of the definition of taste metabolites. This research was recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

More info:

Zhixin Wang et al, Natural Sweetness and Sweetness-Enhancing Compounds Identified in Citrus Using an Efficient Metabolomics-Based Research Design, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2022). DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.2c03515