Tropical tree produces sweetener suitable for diabetics, study
A process for producing the sweetener erythritol from sapodilla, a tropical tree, has been developed by students at the Technological Institute of Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico.
Some natural low calorie sweeteners, including erythritol (a sweetener found in fruits and vegetables) can be used to sweeten foods and drinks for patients with diabetes. However, because the extraction is usually made from products with high nutritional and commercial value (such as grapes), its price is higher than other sweeteners.
The student researchers at the Technological Institute of Monterrey (ITESM) in México, developed a process for producing erythritol from sapodilla, a tropical tree, which has a lower commercial demand than other fruits and vegetables, and was used initially to produce chewing gum. The sapodilla’s lower commercial demand means the sweetener would not demand such a high price.
Pedro Magaña Mejia and Alexis Lara Azar from Biotechnology Engineering and Moisés Medina Espinoza and Karen López Solís from Industrial and Systems Engineering, created a “zero calorie” sweetener, suitable for people with diabetes, from the sapodilla.
Method of production
The student researchers said that the erythritol was produced “traditionally” using fermentation of glucose with yeast, and no salts, chemicals or preservatives were used. According to the researchers, the product does not detonate dental caries, and does not cause gastric side effects as pronounced as with other other sweeteners. However, when consumed in excess, the researchers said the erythritol may cause some inconvenient laxative reaction. The researchers said it was therefore important to check with the doctor or specialist before integrating it to a diet.
Sweetener is ‘totally natural’
The researchers said the erythritol was a “totally natural product”. They said this factor represented an advantage over other erythritoles.
The researchers said the proposed sweetener produced from the sapodilla provides 0.2 calories per gram and with a glycemic index of zero, so it could be used by people with diabetes mellitus.
The researchers said that they would seek to open a market in synergy with food manufacturers that required sweeteners, mainly in the soft drink industry.