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Mexico: A natural sweetener was developed from fruit

Upon being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Elsa Martinez decided to learn which food products wouldn't aggravate her health. Her doctor told her one of the first things she needed to avoid was sugar, but she had the habit of sweetening almost all of her food and drinks. 

Elsa learned about some natural low calorie sweeteners that she could use, including erythritol, a sweetener classified as a sugar-alcohol that is found in fruits and vegetables, and that is one of the options diabetes patients have to sweeten their foods and drinks. However, since it is usually extracted from products with a high nutritional and commercial value (such as grapes), its price is higher than that of other sweeteners. 

A group of students from the Technological Institute of Monterrey, Campus Puebla, identified this problem and developed a process for producing erythritol from sapodilla, a species that has less commercial demand than other fruits and vegetables. The Agency ID released the study. 

According to the students, no salts, chemicals or preservatives were used to produce the erythritol; it's worth noting that erythritol is traditionally produced by the fermentation of glucose with a yeast, usually known as Moniliella pollinis (which is why that input is classified among the sugar-alcohols). This product doesn't cause tooth decay or gastric side effects, like other sugar-alcohols. 

However, the erythritol could cause some problems if consumed in excess, mainly due to a laxative reaction of the sugar-alcohols that, if they're not well absorbed by the intestines and are fermented by the colonic micro-flora, can produce gases, flatulence, colic and diarrhoea. Therefore it is important a doctor or specialist tells his patients how to administer their consumption. 

The erythritol obtained by the students is a hundred percent natural product. This factor represents an advantage over other eritritoles, since it has been found that the product contains only 60 to 70 percent of the sweetness of sugar cane, so some companies add other ingredients like trans fats to enhance it and make it taste sweeter. The sweetener produced from the sapodilla provides 0.2 calories per gram and a glycemic index of zero, so its use is suitable for people with diabetes mellitus. The students noted that the calorie content was an issue for the food industry, so they were seeking to open a market in synergy with food manufacturers requiring sweeteners, mainly the soft drink industry. 


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