The perfect low and no-calorie sweeteners continue to be a holy grail, even with an abundance of corn syrup and sugar alternatives like Splenda, stevia and the much-maligned aspartame already on the market. Now scientists may have another, more sugar-like option called brazzein that comes from fruit.
Brazzein isn't actually new on the sweetener scene. It comes from the fruit of the West African Pentadiplandra brazzeana Baillon plant and has been recognized for its potential as a sugar substitute for many years. It has been held back, however, because it is difficult to produce in large amounts from its natural source.
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There have been attempts to work around this by engineering microorganisms or genetically modified plants including corn to produce the brazzein protein, but most have resulted in small amounts or a less sweet version.
A new report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry outlines progress in developing a process that uses yeast and yields 2.6 times more of the sweetener over those previous attempts. Kwang-Hoon Kong of Chung-Ang University in Seoul, Korea and colleagues used a type of yeast named Kluyveromyces lactis, which they were able to get to produce excess proteins that are in turn needed for assembling brazzein.
Not only did the process more than double the yield of previous production attempts, but a panel of tasters also determined that the resulting sweetener was over 2,000 times sweeter than sugar.
The researchers see the method as having potential for mass production and eventual commercial use of a brazzein-based sweetener. They also believe that genetic modifications could be made in the yeast to increase the yield even further.
Source: American Chemical Society