Super-charged sugar? Peruvian inventor seeks patent on nutrition-dense sweetener

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

The blend, which is called "sugar for athletes", contains steviol glycosides. Image © Getty Images / HandmadePictures
The blend, which is called "sugar for athletes", contains steviol glycosides. Image © Getty Images / HandmadePictures
An inventor from Peru has developed a sweetening formulation that enables calorie reduction but also targets disease prevention through functional ingredients like prebiotic fibers and omega-3s.

Writing in the international patent​, José Carlos Sanchez Bartra from Lima, Peru, described the blend as a “functional sweetener” ​because it contained chicory inulin, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from algae, pine phytosterols and organic yeast selenium.

The blend, coined 'sugar for athletes', had been developed following three years of research, he said, with the aim of creating a sweetener that could have a “positive impact” ​on the population, particularly around prevalent diet-related diseases like obesity, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes.

“The object of the research was to create a sugar with beneficial properties for health that meets the following requirements: that it be of natural origin; that it is not harmful to health; that it does not have a residual bitter or metallic flavor; that it is several times sweeter than sugar cane but without residual flavors, retaining only the sweetness; that it reduces the level of calories compared to traditional alternatives; and that it also adds value to consumers by generating health benefits,”​ Sanchez Bartra wrote.

“...To date, there is no product that presents all these qualities in the market.”

Algae, fiber and minerals

Sanchez Bartra said the blend, made with 1-6% steviol glycosides and 10-90% cane sugar for bulking, contained 70-90% less calories than regular cane sugar. In addition, there were an array of functional ingredients with powerful, positive health attributes.

The dietary fiber inulin, for example, accelerated intestinal transit and aided mineral absorption; algae-sourced DHA contributed to the treatment of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases, as well as brain function and immune health; plant sterols blocked absorption of cholesterol in the intestines, reducing 'bad cholesterol'; and magnesium contributed to antioxidant effects in cells and organs.

Overall, the blend also helped to “lower glucose levels by increasing blood insulin levels, fighting and preventing diabetes”,​ he wrote.

Taste tests among groups in Peru, Colombia, Paraguay, Chile, Nicaragua, the US and China had helped refine final levels of the functional ingredients to: prebiotic fibers at 1-5%; phytosterols between 0.5-2%; DHA between 0.3-1.5% and selenium at 3-10 micrograms per gram of overall blend.

Importantly, the inventor said, none of these functional ingredients generated side effects and therefore could be consumed widely and regularly. The blend, he said, could be added to products like instant coffee, chocolate, or wheat-based foods, among others.

“Sugar for athletes has great potential to help in health and prevent diseases,”​ Sanchez Bartra said, particularly among the 4,380 million people that consumed cane sugar regularly.

Cane sugar – a sweet challenge

According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, around 60% of the world's population used cane sugar. Favored for its “ideal sweetness” ​and lack of metallic, bitter aftertaste it made synthetic and natural alternatives tough to like, the inventor said.

Whilst alternatives had been developed and brought to market, including aspartame, acesulfame, thaumatin and steviol glycosides (stevia plant extracts), all had associated taste issues and therefore didn't live up to consumer expectations, Sanchez Bartra said.

Natural alternatives like honey, panela, glucose syrup and fructose also had a “negligible level of consumption compared to that of cane sugar” ​primarily because of taste but also price, and anyway had very similar calories per gram to cane sugar (3-4kcal).

“In summary, mixtures have been obtained with fewer calories but with different tastes than what consumers are looking for and products that have a chemical origin have been introduced into these mixtures to act as taste maskers,” - ​examples included Sugar Valdez Light, Truvia and Splenda Sucrose, he wrote.

But what consumers looked for, he said, was sugar with zero or fewer calories, that was not harmful to health, and had the same taste as regular cane sugar.

"The present invention does not seek to propose an alternative to molasses, glucose syrup, brown sugar, beet or fructose, but aims to meet the needs and expectations of consumers of regular sugar.”

Source: WIPO International Patent No. WO2017119825
Published: July 13, 2017. Filed: January 6, 2016.
Title: “Sugar for athletes (sweetening formulation comprising sugar cane, phytosterols, prebiotic fibre, stevia, selenium and DHA)”
Author: JC. Sanchez Bartra

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