Results from a human taste study carried out by the Flavour and Sensory Science Centre at the UK’s University of Reading suggest that naturally sweet prebiotic fibers could replace high-calorie sugars in food and drink products. The human gut is unable to digest the long-fiber prebiotics, so while they taste sweet, they are calorie-free. They have been developed by OptiBiotix, a developer of probiotic and prebiotic microbiome modulators.
The human taste study used a panel of 10 experienced experts to test the sweetness of six customized prebiotic sweeteners derived from several high-intensity sweeteners. All of the naturally sweet prebiotics are oligosaccharides, which are carbohydrates which have three to 10 simple sugars linked together. The customized oligosaccharides demonstrated sweetness of 140 to 223 times the sweetness of an equivalent concentration of sugar. This means that a far lower concentration of the oligosaccharides would be required to achieve the same level of sweetness as sugar. In addition, some of the oligosaccharides were derived from Stevia. The study showed that there was a large reduction in Stevia’s bitterness without any effect on sweetness. Previous human taste studies have confirmed the safety and sweetness of the prebiotic sweeteners.
Reducing the sugar content of food and drink products is a key objective for the UK food industry, particularly following Public Health England’s announcement of its sugar reduction guidelines. PHE has encouraged the food industry to cut sugar by 20% by 2020 by lowering sugar levels, reducing the number of calories per portion, or promoting lower sugar products. These new sugar guidelines are part of the government’s drive to reduce childhood obesity. All of the prebiotic sweeteners were developed using OptiBiotix’s technology platform, the company said, explaining that the platform generates prebiotic microbiome modulators which increase the growth, biological activity, and health benefit of individual genera or species in the human microbiome. OptiBiotix has conducted research in microbiome modulation, including in the area of cholesterol reduction, and has recently launched a range of cholesterol-reducing probiotics.