Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sugar substitutes not so super sweet after all

Date:
September 5, 2014
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
The taste of common sugar substitutes is often described as being much more intense than sugar, but participants in a recent study indicated that these non-nutritive sugar substitutes are no sweeter than the real thing, according to food scientists.

The taste of common sugar substitutes is often described as being much more intense than sugar, but participants in a recent study indicated that these non-nutritive sugar substitutes are no sweeter than the real thing, according to Penn State food scientists.

In the study, participants compared the taste of non-nutritive sweeteners that are often used as low- or no-calorie sugar substitutes with those of nutritive sweeteners, such as sugar, maple syrup and agave nectar. The participants indicated they could perceive the non-nutritive sweeteners -- such as aspartame, marketed as NutraSweet; acesulfameK, often called AceK; and RebA, a compound found in the stevia plant -- at lower concentrations than real sugar, but the intensity of these sensations was no sweeter than sugar and other nutritive sweeteners.

"While you can detect non-nutritive sweeteners at lower levels than sugar, that doesn't really tell us anything about the perceived intensity of that sweetness," said John Hayes, assistant professor, food science and director of the sensory evaluation center.

The assumption that these sweeteners are excessively sweet may be the result of confusing potency and intensity, said Hayes, who worked with Rachel Antenucci, a graduate student in food science.

"In terms of receptor biology, the potency of a substance describes the lowest concentration that activates a taste receptor, but this does not predict the intensity, or magnitude, of the response," said Hayes.

The ability to detect sweetness of non-nutritive sweeteners at low levels, then, is related to their potency, but not their intensity, he added. Sugar, on the other hand, is less potent but causes more intense sensations of sweetness.

"These ingredients are often marketed or described as 'high-intensity' sweeteners, but that's misleading," said Hayes. "Our data confirm other work showing the maximal sweetness of low-cal sweeteners is often much lower than that of table sugar or other natural sweeteners, like maple syrup."

The researchers, whose findings are available online in the International Journal of Obesity, said these sweeteners did not seem to act as supernormal stimuli -- a term first used by Nobel laureate Niko Tingergen to describe exaggerated stimuli that serve as triggers for innate behaviors.

Some psychologists have suggested that supernormal stimuli and the responses they provoke could be a factor in the obesity epidemic, said Hayes.

"We have evolved to like sweetness from before birth, so some people assume so-called 'high intensity' sweeteners hijack or over-stimulate our natural drive to consume sweet foods, causing us to overeat," said Hayes. "However, this view assumes that foods we eat today are more intense than those we would have been exposed to evolutionarily, and our data imply this isn't the case."

Hayes also said the availability of highly desired foods may play a more important role in the obesity epidemic.

The researchers recruited 401 participants to take part in a series of taste tests held at the Sensory Evaluation Center at Penn State. Once the subjects were briefed on the study, they tasted between 12 and 15 separate samples that contained maple syrup, agave nectar and sucrose, as well as various concentrations of aspartame, sucralose, AceK and RebA. Participants indicated that the caloric sweeteners all had higher sweetness ratings than the non-nutritive sweeteners.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. The original article was written by Matt Swayne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R G Antenucci, J E Hayes. Nonnutritive sweeteners are not supernormal stimuli. International Journal of Obesity, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2014.109

Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Sugar substitutes not so super sweet after all." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 September 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140905090817.htm>.
Penn State. (2014, September 5). Sugar substitutes not so super sweet after all. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140905090817.htm
Penn State. "Sugar substitutes not so super sweet after all." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140905090817.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) Sierra Leone is locked down as aid workers and volunteers look for new cases of Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) A study suggest antidepressants can kick in much sooner than previously thought. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins