Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 25th 2015 Contents B42
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, November 25, 2015
I have had a love affair with sugar that has lasted
all of my life. I adore the sweet stuff and in my
youth knocked back gallons of sugary drinks and
ate as many desserts as I could sink my teeth into.
Unfortunately, it is a love affair that has brought
me nothing but grief. The sugar I gleefully ate and
drank rotted my teeth, so that almost every tooth in
my face has had to be filled, drilled or replaced. All
those sugary carbs also helped pile on the fat, which
sent my blood sugar levels soaring.
Recently, I have managed to cut down my sugary
intake but never quite managed to quit. So, not sur-
prisingly I ve been on a quest to find a substitute,
something that will satisfy my sweet teeth (or what
remains of them) without the unfortunate side effects.
I ve tried aspartame, saccharin, xylitol and stevia. I
haven t found any of them convincing, though pure
stevia isn t bad when you mix it with sugar and add
to stewed fruit.
So I was intrigued when the team making a new
series for BBC One, Tomorrow s Food, invited me to
try the extract of an African fruit, called the miracle
berry. Derived from a plant called Synsepalum dul-
cificum, it is unlike any artificial sugar I d tried
before---because it works
not by making foods
sweeter, but by making
them taste sweeter.
The so-called miracle
berries contain a molecule
called miraculin which
binds to receptors on your
tongue, changing their
shape. This makes sour
foods taste sweeter. One
advantage of temporarily
changing your taste buds,
rather than the food itself,
could be the effect this
has on your gut bacteria.
For years now there has
been a vigorous debate as
to whether using artificial sugars will help you lose
weight or not. A recent meta-analysis which looked
at the results of more than 100 different human
studies concluded that when artificial sweeteners
replace sugar in the diet then this can lead to weight
The Harvard School of Public Health, however,
points out that there are lots of conflicting studies,
including those which suggest that drinking artificially
sweetened drinks may increase your risk, not just of
weight gain, but of type 2 diabetes, possibly via the
impact of artificial sugar on your gut bacteria.
The African berries seem promising; but they are
expensive to grow and don t last long, so scientists
in Japan (where the berry is popular) are now trying
to produce the all-important miraculin molecule by
genetically engineering tomato plants. That is obvi-
ously some way off. For now the simplest and cheapest
way to get a dose of miraculin is to buy tablets which
contain the dehydrated pulp of the fresh berries.
So what are they like?
The tablet I tried certainly took the bitter edge off
licking a lemon, but the aftertaste was flat and remark-
ably unpleasant. An expensive red wine was trans-
formed by the tablet into a sweet, fizzy abomination.
I tried eating a segment of orange. Far from making
the orange irresistible, the tablet made it inedible.
The only good thing, as far as I was concerned, is
Aspartame: Odourless, white crystalline powder
that is derived from two amino acids, 200 times
sweeter than sugar
Saccharine: The first artificial sweetener ever
synthesised (in 1879), causes cancer in male rats
but extensive research has found no risk to
Stevia: Natural sweetener derived from the
South American Stevia plant
TYPES OF SWEETENERS
it put me off eating anything at all until the effects
had worn off (about an hour).
Others may have a better experience, but for me
the quest for a perfect artificial sweetener contin-
Comment/opinion by Michael Mosely, BBC
News. Michael Mosley is a British television
journalist, producer and presenter who has
worked for the BBC since 1985. He is best known
as a presenter of television programmes on
biology and medicine.
Too much refined
sugar is blamed
for a wave of
obesity and ill-
health, so the
search is on for
it's not an easy
In search of the perfect sweetener
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
searches for the
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