Novel Sweeteners

Three newer sweeteners are becoming more frequently publicized as sugar replacers. These are fructo-oligosaccharide, tagatose and trehalose. Each is made from different carbohydrate sources, and each bestows slightly different functional properties.

What is a fructo-oligosaccharide?

Like many of the starch-based sugar replacers, the term “fructo-oligosaccharide” represents a family of ingredients, not a single product. Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are manufactured by fragmenting a large molecule. In the case of FOS, that molecule (polysaccharide) is inulin. Inulin is a polysaccharide in which a single glucose unit ends a chain of up to sixty fructose units linked together.

Inulin occurs naturally in chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, wheat, onions and bananas. Chicory and Jerusalem artichoke are the commercial sources of FOS products. Since commercial FOS products can have various numbers of fructose units linked to the ending glucose unit, the Food and Drug Administration has ruled that “fructooligosaccharide” is the term approved for an ingredient list.

FDA has agreed with manufacturers’ conclusions that FOS products are safe food ingredients. Fructo-oligosaccharides may be used in hard and soft candies, baked goods like biscuits, cakes, cookies and crackers, frozen dairy desserts, cereals, jams and jellies, flavored and unflavored milks, and soups. Additionally, FOS has been approved for use a binder and stabilizer in a variety of meat and poultry products.

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What is tagatose?

Tagatose occurs naturally in dairy products, but the commercial product is manufactured from lactose (milk sugar) by a patented process. It is very similar to fructose in structure.

Tagatose has the bulk of sugar, and is almost as sweet. However, it has only 1.5 calories per gram since less than 20% of ingested tagatose is absorbed in the small intestine. Although tagatose is digested the same as fructose, its limited absorption means that it is metabolized mainly in the large intestine. The short chain fatty acids promote the growth of the two bacteria recognized to improve colon health. Consequently, the prebiotic potential of tagatose is often stressed for the foods using this sugar replacer.

Tagatose was launched in the U.S. in 2003 after the Food and Drug Administration issued a letter agreeing with the manufacturer’s determination that it is a safe food ingredient. Tagatose may be used in foods like soft and hard candies, frozen dairy desserts, cereals, frostings and fillings, and chewing gum.

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What is trehalose?

Trehalose is found naturally in such diverse foods as honey, mushrooms, shrimp and lobster, and in foods produced with baker’s or brewer’s yeast. It is found naturally in such diverse foods as honey, mushrooms, shrimp and lobster, and in foods produced with baker’s or brewer’s yeast.

Commercially, trehalose is manufactured from cornstarch. Although trehalose is a disaccharide of two glucose units, its molecular bonding makes it different than maltose, the other glucose disaccharide made from cornstarch. Trehalose has four calories per gram – same as sugar – but is only half as sweet.

Trehalose is used mainly to preserve the texture and structure of frozen fruits and vegetables. Trehalose may also be used to add thickness to purees and fillings, and to enhance flavors of dried fruits.

In October 2000, the Food and Drug Administration issued a letter not objecting to the manufacturer’s self-determination that trehalose is a safe food ingredient.

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