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Sweeteners: From Ancient to Modern Times


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Honey was the first sweetener to be discovered by humans in the ancient times. It remained the main sweetener in Europe until Alexander the Great’s visit to India in 326 BCE, when he came across the sweet-juice-producing sugarcane. Sugarcane originated in India during the Vedic period (1200–1000 BCE), and even today, most of the sugarcane grown all over the world has some genetic linkage to the ‘Noble’ canes bred at the Sugarcane Breeding Institute of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR-SBI), India. The technology for making sugar from sugarcane juice was also first developed in India. The word sugar, as well as Saccharum, the generic name for sugarcane, are derived from the Sanskrit word sharkara. Sugar beet as a source of sugar was identified in Europe in the middle of the 18th century. Production of sugar syrups started much later. In recent times, the excess consumption of sugar and modern sedentary lifestyles created the problem of diabetes, triggering the search for non-sugar sweeteners. Saccharin, the world’s first and widely used artificial sweetener was accidentally discovered in 1879 in Germany. It was followed by the discovery of other artificial sweeteners, such asaspartame (APM), cyclamate, sucralose, acesulfame-k and neotame, which have been approved by different government authorities and are being marketed in many countries. Nevertheless, when taken in amounts more than the medically approved levels, they may cause health problems. This has made man turn back to Nature once again and search for natural non-sugar sweeteners. The most acceptable natural non-sugar sweetener today is ‘Stevia’, which had been known to people in South America since ages. Stevia is gaining popularity all over the world, and is reported to have antioxidant, antiviral, anti-hypertension, and anti-inflammatory properties. The two alcohol sweeteners erythritol and xylitol can also be considered as natural, since they are produced from natural products. Erythritol is produced from fermented fruits and foods, while xylitol is produced from hemicelluloses from hardwood. Yet another natural sweetener, licorice (mulethi), is mostly used as a flavoring agent and for medicinal purposes. Licorice, aspartame and cyclamate have nearly the same calorie value as sucrose, while xylitol has 63% calorie value as compared with sucrose. The rest of the non-sugar sweeteners are calorie-free.

Keywords

Acesulfame-k, Aspartame, Cyclamate, Diabetes, Honey, Licorice, Neotame, Saccharine, Stevia, Sucralose, Sucrose, Sugarcane, Sugar Beet.
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  • Sweeteners: From Ancient to Modern Times

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Authors

Rajendra Prasad
6695 Meghan Rose Way, East Amherst, NY 14051, United States

Abstract


Honey was the first sweetener to be discovered by humans in the ancient times. It remained the main sweetener in Europe until Alexander the Great’s visit to India in 326 BCE, when he came across the sweet-juice-producing sugarcane. Sugarcane originated in India during the Vedic period (1200–1000 BCE), and even today, most of the sugarcane grown all over the world has some genetic linkage to the ‘Noble’ canes bred at the Sugarcane Breeding Institute of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR-SBI), India. The technology for making sugar from sugarcane juice was also first developed in India. The word sugar, as well as Saccharum, the generic name for sugarcane, are derived from the Sanskrit word sharkara. Sugar beet as a source of sugar was identified in Europe in the middle of the 18th century. Production of sugar syrups started much later. In recent times, the excess consumption of sugar and modern sedentary lifestyles created the problem of diabetes, triggering the search for non-sugar sweeteners. Saccharin, the world’s first and widely used artificial sweetener was accidentally discovered in 1879 in Germany. It was followed by the discovery of other artificial sweeteners, such asaspartame (APM), cyclamate, sucralose, acesulfame-k and neotame, which have been approved by different government authorities and are being marketed in many countries. Nevertheless, when taken in amounts more than the medically approved levels, they may cause health problems. This has made man turn back to Nature once again and search for natural non-sugar sweeteners. The most acceptable natural non-sugar sweetener today is ‘Stevia’, which had been known to people in South America since ages. Stevia is gaining popularity all over the world, and is reported to have antioxidant, antiviral, anti-hypertension, and anti-inflammatory properties. The two alcohol sweeteners erythritol and xylitol can also be considered as natural, since they are produced from natural products. Erythritol is produced from fermented fruits and foods, while xylitol is produced from hemicelluloses from hardwood. Yet another natural sweetener, licorice (mulethi), is mostly used as a flavoring agent and for medicinal purposes. Licorice, aspartame and cyclamate have nearly the same calorie value as sucrose, while xylitol has 63% calorie value as compared with sucrose. The rest of the non-sugar sweeteners are calorie-free.

Keywords


Acesulfame-k, Aspartame, Cyclamate, Diabetes, Honey, Licorice, Neotame, Saccharine, Stevia, Sucralose, Sucrose, Sugarcane, Sugar Beet.

References