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Technology: Nothing could be sweeter, say chemists

Technology: Nothing could be sweeter, say chemists

作者:闫破念  时间:2019-02-26 10:09:00  人气:

By ANDREW MILLER ARTIFICIAL sweeteners that are more potent than anything so far developed are now emerging from the laboratories of Nutrasweet, the American food company that developed the sweetener aspartame and the fat substitute, Simplesse. The new sweeteners, discovered by a team of French scientists, are up to 200 000 times as sweet as sugar (sucrose). The scientists believe that theirs are the sweetest compounds that will ever be found. Claud Nofre and Jean-Marie Tinti, of the Claude Bernard University in Lyon, discovered the new sweeteners as part of their research on modelling the sweetness receptor on the tongue. In 1982, they found that a hybrid between aspartame and another sweetener, suosan, turned out to be 50 000 times as sweet as sugar. Aspartame itself is only 200 times as sweet as sugar. Now, in collaboration with Nutrasweet, the two Frenchmen have created a series of sweet compounds that fall into two related classes: aryl ureas and trisubstituted guanidines. Nutrasweet is developing several of these and hopes to launch the best candidate on the market around 1993, provided it passes safety tests. Although the number and structure of sweetness receptors involved in the human response to a sweet taste have yet to be fully understood, the French team now believe that there is only one type of receptor involved in the mechanism. The new compounds, they think, have reached the limit where only one molecule of sweetener is needed to activate each receptor. Nofre and Tinti will present details of their research at next month’s meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston. The great advantage of the ‘second-generation’ sweeteners will be their economy: the compounds are so strong that far smaller quantities of them are needed to sweeten a given volume of liquid. If approved, they are likely to displace aspartame from uses such as low-calorie carbonated drinks. Last year, Nutrasweet’s aspartame had worldwide sales worth $869 million – or about 1.25 per cent of the world sweetener market, including sugar. Given the limits of human sweetness receptors, Nofre believes it unlikely that anyone will ever develop anything sweeter than the new compound. He and Tinti have developed a model of the site on the tongue’s sweetness receptors to which the molecules of the compounds bind. They based their model on the way the receptors react to the new compounds. By comparing how variations in the compound’s structures affect their activity with the receptors, the researchers were able to isolate the compounds which showed the greatest activity, and hence sweetness. For Nutrasweet, the success of a new sweetener is important. Aspartame, which is now a common ingredient in many low-calorie foods and beverages, has reached the end of its patent in Europe and will do so in 1992 in the US. Whichever of the candidates finally emerges from development,