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.

Related Articles


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 January 26, 2015 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 January 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, January 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Mistakes Should Serve a Lesson Says WHO

Ebola Mistakes Should Serve a Lesson Says WHO

AFP (Jan. 25, 2015) The World Health Organization&apos;s chief on Sunday admitted the UN agency had been caught napping on Ebola, saying it should serve a lesson to avoid similar mistakes in future. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Disneyland Measles Outbreak Spreads To 5 States

Disneyland Measles Outbreak Spreads To 5 States

Newsy (Jan. 24, 2015) Much of the Disneyland measles outbreak is being blamed on the anti-vaccination movement. The CDC encourages just about everyone get immunized. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Growing Measles Outbreak Worries Calif. Parents

Growing Measles Outbreak Worries Calif. Parents

AP (Jan. 23, 2015) Public health officials are rushing to contain a measles outbreak that has sickened 70 people across 6 states and Mexico. The AP&apos;s Raquel Maria Dillon has more. (Jan. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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