Sunday, January 27, 2008

Future Foods? American Fitness, Nov-Dec, 1991 by Mary Hubbard

Pfizer, Inc. has submitted a petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the approval of its sweetener called alatame. It is 2,000 times sweeter than sugar and is formed from two amino acids (the building blocks of protein) just as is aspartame (the chemical name of NutraSweet). It is reportedly more stable than aspartame and may thus be used in baked goods as well as beverages.


A subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, McNeil Specialy Products Company, has submitted a petition to the FDA for approval of a sweetener which is made from sugar, but is 600 times sweeter. Because it is made from sugar it has excellent stability even at high temperatures so it is suitable for use in a broad range of foods including beverages, baked goods, chewing gum, dairy products (like ice cream), syrups and even tabletop sweeteners you use to sweeten your coffee or cereal.

Left-Handed Sugar

The perfect sugar substitute probably doesn't exist, but left-handed sugar (L-sugar for short) sounds very close. This is a substance with its molecules arranged in the mirror image (much as your left hand is the mirror image of your right hand) of regular sugar. The big difference is it can't be digested and absorbed by your body because our digestive systems only "fit" the regular sugar arrangement. It would be like trying to put your left hand into your right glove. And if it can't be digested and absorbed it will pass right through the body so it can't supply any calories. L-sugar supposedly looks like, cooks like, and most importantly, tastes like regular sugar.

Now the artificial fats enter into the picture. Fat of all kinds (solid, liquid, saturated or unsaturated) is a concentrated form of calories. Fat provides nine calories in only one gram (about the weight of a small paper clip), whereas protein or carbohydrate each provide four calories per gram. And evidence is building dietary fat is more easily converted to body fat than are either carbohydrate or protein. So if we could find a way to decrease the fat in our diets (without making any sacrifices, of course), then we could reduce our calories even more drastically than by using sugar substitutes. Imagine fat-free french fries and rich ice cream with less than half the calories.


This artificial fat is claimed by the NutraSweet Company to be the first and only all-natural fat substitute. Simplesse is made by cooking and blending milk and/or egg white protein to make a creamy fluid with a texture so like fat it fools the tongue. It is completely digestible, but substitutes one or two calories of protein for nine calories of fat. Total calorie savings in products will range from 20 to 80%. However, Simplesse has some limitations. Frying or banking will cause Simplesse to gel and lose its creaminess which limits its uses. Simplesse will probably not be sold for home use, but will be sold to food manufacturers as an ingredient in sour cream, cream cheese, margarine, yogurt and ice cream. Simplesse has already received approval by the FDA. In fact, Simple Pleasures[TM] ice cream, which utilizes Simplesse, is currently making its way across America. Its level of acceptance will determine if more products using Simplesse are in our futures. One attractive possibility is the combination of Simplesse and NutraSweet in the same product, a creamy sweet frosting, perhaps? After all, the NutraSweet Company owns the patent on them both.


Proctor & Gamble has been researching "olestra," on a fat-sbustitute made from sugar and vegetable oil. This substance is calorie-free-because it is not digested or absorbed by the body. Research shows olestra may lower the absorption of cholesterol from food in our digestive systems. This is a definite health bonus, but one that has caused the FDA to demand even more intensive research on its safety be conducted before it can be approved. Fat using 100% olestra for a cooking oil is not feasible as it causes diarrhea, so it is blended about 50-50 with regular cooking oil. It is said to look, cook and taste like regular oils. It is not broken down by cooking temperatures and can be used in baked goods, fried snacks and frozen desserts.

As revolutionary as these new products are, we need to put these possibilities into perspective. Studies have shown even with the availability of artificial sweeteners (and Americans are guzzling millions of cans of sugar-free soft drinks each year), we have not really reduced our overall calorie intake. It seems we just eat more of other things to make up for the ones we have given up. So remember, a healthy, nutritious and yes, delicious, diet is not a function of any individual food or product like artificial sweetener or artificial fat. It is determined by a diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products.

No comments: