Updated: Oct 1
The New Yorker September 28, 2020 pp20-25 DEP. OF NUTRITION “If we could design a better sugar, would we eat less of it?
In recent times, as obesity and type-2 diabetes have increased dramatically, there’s been an increased focus on nutrition-especially “added sugar” in processed-food and -drinks. Sugar is added to manufactured food and drink because we have a strong preference for sweets but an inefficient sense-of-taste for sugars. Surprisingly, besides on the tongue, we have “taste” receptors for sugar throughout our body. These other receptors are involved physiological signaling that prepares our body to metabolize sugar. From an anthropological perspective, our most sensitive taste receptors are designed to protect us from bitter-tasting poisons rather that relatively innocuous sweets. Further complicating matters, sugars often pass through the mouth too quickly to reside-on and efficiently trigger our sweet taste buds.
In order to circumvent the negative health effects of sugar, health advocates have called for reducing sugar in processed foods. Food manufacturers for decades have strived to replace sugar with created newly-developed artificial sweeteners. Many of these earlier artificial-sweeteners were plagued by an excessive aftertaste, were claimed to be cancer-causing and/or didn’t substitute well for table sugar in baking or when added to drinks.
A new class of artificial-sweeteners being developed now are focused on changing the form of sugar. In doing so we can more efficiently taste the sugar in our food and drinks. Featured in this article is a substance, marketed as Incredo, which is a crystallized form of common table sugar produced by interlacing small particles of silica with sucrose. These silica grains are so small that they are 1/50 the diameter of human hair. Like all silica grain they pass through the digestive system without harm and without being metabolized. The effect is that the sugar, in the blended product Incredo, delivers “an intense hit of sweetness” thereby reducing the amount of sugar needed to achieve comparable sweetness. “The best analogy [of the Incredo effect] is cotton candy.” Less sugar for the same level of sweetness has a direct health benefit of being less diabetogenic. Incredo, is made by DouxMatok (meaning double sweet), founded in 2014 by Eran and Avraham Baniel.
See the article for other products being developed. According to Russell Keast (Deakin University) “I think within five years we’ll be able to reduce eighty to ninety per cent of sugar in a food and still get pretty much the same sensation”. The key is producing sweeteners that, according to Nick Hampton (Tate&Lyle), gets “taste and value right, [if that's the case] people will go for health every day of the week.” “If you can’t get those two things right, forget it.” Less sugar should help reduce the incidence of obesity and type-2 diabetes without depriving us of our "sweet tooth".