Sunday, February 12, 2012


Of all the non-sugar sweeteners currently in the market, Stevia derived one seems to be at the center of focus by the food industry because it has not been created in a laboratory by man, staking its claim as a natural sweetener. Though Stevia leaves were used for hundreds of years in South America for creating sweetness in various food preparations, Safety Authorities in many countries were not convinced about its safety for a long time. Subsequent to its clearance recently in Europe as well as in the US there has been a spurt of interest leading to the growth of Stevia sweetener industry almost exponentially. A troubling question often raised about Stevia is whether it is absolutely "equal" to natural sugar in taste and it now appears that there is subtle taste difference between these two that enables a sensitive consumer to differentiate the same. A good non-sugar sweetener should be equal to natural sugar in all respects and Stevia sweetener probably may fail this test. But researchers feel that this problem can be "licked" by isolating the glycoside components and blending them suitably. Here is a take on this new findings about Stevia sugar. 

"The first sip tastes sweet. But by the fifth sip, something funny happens. The sweetness somehow disappears. It's a phenomenon called adaptation, Breslin says. It doesn't happen much with sugar, but it does with all of the zero-calorie sweeteners, including stevia. Pure Circle, the big stevia processor, says it's working on ways to deal with this problem. Sidd Purkayastha, the company's vice president for global technical development, says stevia leaves actually contain a whole family of different sweet molecules, called steviol glycosides. So you can create mixtures of different molecules, tweaking the taste. "We found that, as we bring together different steviol glycoside molecules, they start performing better, in many cases, and more like sugar," he says. Maybe the perfect combination, he adds, is a mixture of stevia and regular sugar. You'd have some calories, but a lot fewer than if you used only sugar. You'd have the sweetness that people crave. And you could still put these valuable words on the label: "All-natural."

The suggestion to develop blends of natural sugar and Stevia sugar to camouflage the sensory deficiency of the latter is eminently sound and food industry must work in this direction without delay. It has further advantage of reducing sugar production, saving the land spared by sugarcane for use to raise more valuable crops like oil seeds or legumes. A blend of sugar and Stevia sweetener can also help to retain some of the functional properties of natural sugar so vital to manufacture of many products. Stevia sugar is a concentrated sweetener and mixing with sugar will help to handle the blend better besides adding a few calories making it low calorie sweetener rather than zero calorie sweetener and such blends may be acceptable to most consumers.


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