Sweet chemistry: Symposium explores sugar alternatives, science of taste

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ATLANTA, March 27 – In an effort to fight high rates of diabetes and obesity, chemists are exploring a variety of sugar alternatives — including new artificial sweeteners and non-calorie sweetness enhancers — to satisfy America’s demand for sweet flavor with fewer health risks. These and other taste-related topics will be discussed during a three and one-half day symposium, “Sweetness and Sweeteners,” March 27-30, at the 231st national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society. Highlights of the symposium, which will feature some of the world’s top experts on taste, are listed below.

All sessions will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center, Rm. C107.

Monday, March 27

Taste cell model developed: May lead to new treatments for taste disorders — Researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia say they have succeeded in growing and sustaining mature taste receptor cells outside the body. The finding could lead to new therapies to help people who have lost their sense of taste due to radiation therapy or disease and may provide a way to test the quality of new sweetener alternatives, they say. (AGFD 36, Monday, March 27, 11:13 a.m.)

Tuesday, March 28

“Supertasters” may have higher risk of colon cancer — About 25 percent of the U.S. population is classified as supertasters, a genetic condition in which people experience roughly three times the sweetness or bitterness of the foods that they taste in comparison with other people, most likely due to the presence of higher numbers of taste buds. In addition to producing picky eaters, the condition also carries health implications. Supertasters tend to be thinner, drink less alcohol, smoke less and have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, studies have shown. Now, a group of scientists has found that being a supertaster also can have a down side: They tend to have a higher number of colon polyps, which is a risk factor for colon cancer. (AGFD 124, Tuesday, March 28, 1:33 p.m.)

Wednesday, March 29

Tricking the taste buds with sweetness enhancers – Researchers at Senomyx, Inc. in La Jolla, Calif., are developing compounds that can enhance sweetness or saltiness by activating or blocking certain taste receptors. The compounds, which could help reduce the amount of sugar or salt added to certain foods while maintaining the normal flavor, are scheduled to appear in a wide variety of food products within the next few years. (AGFD 140, Wednesday, March 29, 9:03 a.m.)

Neotame™: New sweetener could reduce calories while retaining taste — Attention soda fans: Your favorite beverage could soon reduce calories while retaining taste thanks to neotame, a non-calorie derivative of aspartame that is 10,000 times sweeter than sugar. The potent sweetener can reduce the amount of high-fructose corn syrup used in sodas, cutting calories by as much as one-third while providing the same taste and texture of a normal soda, according to researchers at Duke University Medical School. The sweetener, approved by the FDA in 2002, is starting to appear in a small number of food products and dietary supplements. (AGFD 157, Wednesday, March 29, 4:15 p.m.)

Thursday, March 30

Stevioside: Natural sweetener gets safety nod from Belgium group — Stevioside is a natural non-caloric sweetener derived from the South American shrub Stevia rebaudiana that has been used to sweeten food and beverages for centuries. Now, based on a comprehensive review of research, a group of scientists in Belgium say that there is abundant evidence that stevioside, which is 300 times sweeter than sugar, is not only safe but may prove to be a potent weapon against obesity and type 2 diabetes. (AGFD 168, Thursday, March 30, 10:28 a.m.)

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The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.


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