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Specialty Chemicals


November 25, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 46


Letters to the editor

Sweetener strategies

The most common approach to sugar reduction is to find sweeteners several hundred times as sweet as sugar. While the cover story on sugar (C&EN, Oct. 21, 2019, page 28) described the best-known options, one important omission from the list was monk fruit (also known as lo han guo). Containing mogroside V, it’s a great-tasting, naturally potent sweetener. Despite market-scaling challenges, including agricultural maturation, the sweetener can be found on supermarket shelves and in nearly 9,000 coffee shops in the US and Canada.

The second approach to sugar reduction is to find compounds that can be consumed without imparting calories. Your piece correctly notes erythritol, a four-carbon sugar alcohol, and allulose, a stereoisomer of fructose, for their ability to reproduce sugar’s texture. Tagatose, another stereoisomer of fructose, was used commercially at one time but because of supply issues is no longer available.

As for sweetness-craving inhibitors, it should be pointed out that lactisole (2-[4-methoxyphenoxy]propanoic acid), isolated first from roast coffee but now synthesized as a racemic mixture, is commercially available.

There have been active efforts to pursue an approach not mentioned in your piece: sweetness enhancers, or nonsweet compounds that are blended with sugar to create a significantly sweeter taste than sugar by itself. Senomyx, which was acquired by Firmenich, has patented several synthetic compounds with great promise.

When I was a technical director of sweetener research at PepsiCo, my team independently discovered that the molecule phloroglucinol (1,3,5-trihydroxybenzene) considerably enhances sugar’s sweetness. A trained external sensory panel determined that a water solution containing 8.475% sugar plus 800 ppm of phloroglucinol was noticeably sweeter than an 11.3% sugar solution, and without the off taste of sugar alternatives. This would suggest a possible 25% reduction in sugar (US patent application 2017/0245537 A1).


Thomas Lee
Scarsdale, New York


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