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Layered gels may help sugar reduction

February 12th, 2010

By controlling the distribution of sugar in a gelled product, the overall sugar concentration may be lowered without affecting the perceived sweetness, says a new study from Sweden.

The principle focuses on distributing different sugar concentrations in layers of gelatin within a food product, which could lead to a range of reduced-sugar food products like desserts, jellies, and dairy products, according to findings published in Food Hydrocolloids.

The issue of health is no longer a marginal topic for the food industry but wholly mainstream, and it finds confectioners, biscuit and cake makers seeking to juxtapose today’s consumer desire for indulgence with their desire for foods with a healthy profile.

According to a recent study from the US, only 5 per cent of American children between 6 and 11 were overweight before 1980, but 25 years later this number had risen to 19 per cent. Similar increases have been reported in Europe, with the International Association for the Study of Obesity estimating in 2006 that the number of obese school age children in Europe increased by almost 50 per cents since the late 1990s.

The new study, led by Anne-Marie Hermansson from the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, indicates that reduced sugar foods may be achievable by distributing sugar in a structure.

“It is plausible that, when eating and chewing these gels, the receptors initially met different amounts of sugar, which gave higher sweetness intensities for the samples with sugar-rich layers,” wrote the researchers. “As the structures broke down, the sugar distribution evened out; all samples got the same sugar concentration and the differences disappeared.”

Sugar and salt

A similar approach was recently reported by Dutch scientists from the Top Institute Food and Nutrition (TIFN) who developed a technique to reduce salt without adding sodium substitutes, or taste or aroma additives.

Along a similar principle, Hermansson and her co-workers produced layered gelatin gels with the sugar concentration varied throughout the structure. According to their findings, sweetness was detected earlier in a seven-layered sample with the same sugar concentration as a single homogeneous gel.

“The higher sweetness intensity in the seven-layered sample was probably because more sugar met the receptors at biting through this gel,” wrote the researchers.

“It is plausible to believe from our results that gels with the sugar unevenly distributed can give similar sweetness as a homogenous sample, but with a lower sugar concentration,” they added.

Source: Food Hydrocolloids

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