New sweetness-enhancing compounds discovered in citrus fruits
Scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have discovered eight natural sweetness-enhancing compounds in citrus fruits. The research suggests these molecules may be useful as sugar substitutes in food.
The new research focused on screening flavor metabolites in different varieties of citrus fruits. The goal was to identify natural sweeteners or sweetness-enhancing compounds.
Yu Wang, lead researcher on the project, said the team ultimately homed in on eight specific molecules thought to play a role in sweet flavor. Interestingly, one of the eight compounds was previously known to scientists.
“We were able to identify a natural source for an artificial sweetener, oxime V, that had never been identified from any natural source previously,” said Wang.
Oxime V was first reported as a potential synthetic sweetener around 50 years ago. Since then there's been little research into its potential commercial uses beyond some cursory toxicology studies.
Recent research has begun to question the safety of several commonly used artificial sweeteners, from negative impacts on the gut microbiome to concerns over them causing metabolic dysfunction. According to Wang, it's hoped this research will help identify new sweetness-enhancing compounds that are safe and easy to naturally source.
But an even more immediate outcome from this work is to identify citrus strains that contain these sweetener compounds and breed them to enhance sweet taste in fruits and juices. The goal would be to create a fruit that tastes extra sweet while maintaining lower levels of natural sugars.
“This creates expanded opportunities for citrus growers and for breeding cultivars to be selected to obtain high yields of sweetener compounds,” said Wang.
The new research was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Source: University of Florida