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What about sugar, natural sweeteners, and other artificial sweeteners?

Just walking along the beverage stall of any store, you will be surprised by the variety of substances that make up the sweetness in the product. You’ll find sugar in some drinks, and even diet sodas contain artificial sugars or low-calorie natural sweeteners. In the United States, most drinks will contain high-fructose corn syrup for sweetness.

Today, there are countless foods and drinks labeled “for weight loss,” “sugar free” or “artificial sweetener free,” yet they are surprisingly sweet. hard to understand. That makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of these flavors.

So what are the molecules that make up this sweetener? Why can’t cane sugar and artificial sweeteners create the same taste? Before finding out the answer, let’s learn about how taste works!

Taste buds and chemical reactions

The concept of “taste map” (people will taste different flavors in different areas of the tongue) that many people know is actually incorrect. In fact, wherever there are taste buds we can taste all the flavors. So what are these taste buds?

Taste buds are regions on the tongue that contain a multitude of receptor cells, and these cells can detect five basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory (Umani), Also known as meat sweetness. When you eat something, saliva breaks down the molecules in the food and delivers it to the taste buds, where the cell receptors are located. This process helps us to identify different flavors of food.

The sweet-tasting particles bind to G-proteins found on taste cell receptors, which in turn stimulate the release of a series of signals. These signals are then sent to an area of ​​the brain that identifies the taste as sweet.

The same sweetness, but sugar or other sweeteners all have very different compositions.  Let's find out with Watsup.
Glucoso is the simplest type of sugar, consisting of a ring of carbon atoms linked together and hydrogen and oxygen atoms on the outside.

Natural sugar

Natural sugars are a type of carbohydrates (also known as saccharides) that are made up of Carbon, Oxygen and Hydrogen. To make it easier to imagine, you can think of this sugar as a ring made of carbon molecules, and these molecules will all bond with 1 molecule of Hydrogen and 1 molecule of Oxygen outside this ring. These Carbon and Hydrogen groups act as sticky tapes that make them easy to stick with the Hydrogen and Oxygen molecules on other sugar molecules and make it easier for the sugar to stick to the hand every time we touch it.

The simplest natural sugars are simple sugars (monosaccharides). Some common simple sugars are Glucose (from plants), Fructose (sugar found in fruit) and Galactose (sugar in milk).

White granulated sugar is a typical sweetener.

Besides, we also have double sugar – a substance made up of two simple sugar molecules. A typical sugar for double sugar is table sugar, also known as sucrose, which is the type of sugar used in everyday life. White granulated sugar is created when two simple sugar molecules, glucose and fructose, are linked together. Lactose from milk and Maltose from cereals are also double sugars that we often encounter.

When these sugars are introduced into the body, they are processed in different ways. However, they will eventually break down into smaller molecules and your body will then convert them into energy. The amount of energy that the body converts from food and sugar is measured in calories.

High Fructose in Corn Syrup

In corn syrup contains a large amount of fructose, most foods in the United States use this substance to create sweetness. This sweetener is so popular that people have to create a separate category for it. High-fructose corn syrup is made from corn starch – the main carbohydrate found in corn. Corn starch is made up of thousands of glucose molecules linked together.

In manufacturing, enzymes are used to break the corn starch into single glucose molecules, which are then used again to convert these molecules into fructose. Typically, with high-fructose corn syrup, the fructose will make up about 42%-55%.

Corn syrup is a very high fructose sweetener.

The mixture above both brings the desired sweetness, and does not need to spend too much money in production. However, they are high in calories and this is really not good for your health. Today, most foods and drinks, especially those in the United States, contain large amounts of this ingredient. Therefore, it is easy for consumers to consume too many calories into the body.

Image: The chemical in the Stevia plant that makes them taste sweet

Remaining natural sweeteners

The second type of sweetener is a natural sweetener. These are additives such as stevia, Arhat sugar, and sugar alcohol. These molecules are not sugars, however they can bind to sweet taste cell receptors, so they are considered to be able to make food sweeteners.

Stevia is a natural sweetener from the leaves of a South American shrub called Stevia rebaudiana. This plant contains sweeter molecules that are larger than most sugars and they have three glucose molecules attached to them so this molecule is 30-150 times sweeter than glucose. Besides, Arhat Fruit is also quite sweet, about 250 times that of glucose.

Stevia sweeteners and Arhat sugar are difficult to break down into smaller molecules. So, even though both of these foods have a strong sweetness, we won’t absorb too many calories when we eat them.

Sugar alcohols are similar to sorbitol and they are not as sweet as sucrose. Sugar alcohols are found in foods like pineapple, mushrooms, carrots and seaweed. Besides, they are also used in diet foods, sugar-free gum or other foods and beverages.

Unlike regular sugars, which have a circular structure, sugar alcohols are made up of chains of carbon atoms. Although this sweetener is made up of the same atoms as sugar, sugar alcohols are usually not as efficiently absorbed by the body. Therefore, sugar alcohols are considered low-calorie sweeteners.

Chemists have researched and created many chemicals that can give sweetness and sell them under the name “sugar-free sweeteners”.

Artificial sweeteners

The third way to sweeten foods is to add artificial sweeteners. These chemicals are made in labs and factories, not from nature, and like other sweeteners, they can produce sweetness because they can bind to cell receptors. cells in taste buds.

To date, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved 6 artificial sweeteners (saccharin, acesulfam K, aspartame, sucralose, advantame, neotame). In which saccharin, aspartame and sucralose (also known as Splenda sugar) are the most popular. Artificial sweeteners all have different chemical formulas, some will be quite similar to natural sugar while some will be completely different.

In general, artificial sugar will be many times sweeter than natural sugar, for example saccharin will be about 200-700 times sweeter than the sugar we use every day. Some artificial sugars are not completely broken down, but are instead absorbed directly into the bloodstream and excreted in the urine.

For many people, desserts are just small pleasures. However, the chemical reaction and process by which taste buds recognize the sweetener is quite complex, with only molecules with the perfect combination of atoms to create sweetness. However, our bodies will have different ways of processing and absorbing different types of molecules.

The content posted on Watsup is for the purpose of supporting readers. Please carefully review the date of the last update (if applicable) and do not use this information as a substitute for advice from your doctor or healthcare professional.

Charlie Rosales
Charlie Rosales
With the help of our online platform, aspiring agriculturalists can get in touch with knowledgeable experts who can mentor and teach them about the art and science of productive agriculture. everything from soil management and crop rotation to animal husbandry and plant genetics. Our user-friendly portal will help you select the ideal course to advance your knowledge of agriculture.

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