Study finds low-calorie sweetener that improves gut health

Study finds low-calorie sweetener that improves gut health
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American Chemical Society has discovered a low-calorie sweetener that can help improve gut health.

It is well-known that sweeteners and sugars can lead to health issues; however, this does not stop people from enjoying sweet treats. On a mission to create a better sweetener, the American Chemical Society (ACS) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported their low-calorie mixture discovery as sweet as table sugar and in lab experiments, improves gut health.

What are artificial sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners allow people to consume sweet foods without calories. However, speculation has surrounded whether they are healthy for human consumption – despite sweeteners being considered safe. Research has suggested that artificial sweeteners can stimulate appetite, leading to increased weight gain.

The researchers set out to discover whether there are low-calorie alternatives that are just as sweet. For example, galactooligosaccharides — found in mammalian milk — are low-calorie sugars with prebiotic activity that can be a source of energy for beneficial gut microbes but are not sweet enough to replace table sugar. On the other hand, extracts from the Luo Han Guo fruit contain mogrosides — compounds 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. This extract can have off-flavours, which can be removed with enzymes. F Javier Moreno and colleagues took aspects from both natural substances to create a brand-new low-calorie sweeten with health benefits that significantly improve gut health.

Can the sweetener improve gut health?

The researchers began with lactose and mogroside V (the primary mogroside in Luo Han Guo fruit). They added the β-galactosidase enzymes and obtained a mixture that contained mostly galactooligosaccharides and a small number of modified mogrosides.

A trained sensory panel reported that the new combination had a sweetness similar to sucrose (table sugar), suggesting that it could be enjoyed by consumers. Furthermore, in test tube experiments, the new sweetener improves gut health by increasing levels of multiple human gut microbes, including Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus bacterial species. The sweetener mixture increased bacteria-produced metabolites, such as acetate, propionate and butyrate, suggesting the mixture could potentially have a prebiotic effect on the gut microbiome.

The researchers noted that the new sweetener is promising in the initial analyses, and the next step is to closely study how the sweetener improves gut health. This could be an exciting development as gut health becomes a more prominent topic in the health industry, and finding alternatives for artificial sweeteners could revolutionise the future of the food industry.


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