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Sweeter than sugar

Spotlight on: Flavours & additives 


Taste something sweet? It might not be what you think.


 As scientific consensus has emerged on the negative health consequences of excess sugar, a range of sweeteners have been brought to market which mimic its sweet taste without affecting the body’s blood sugar levels. 


Many of these compounds are derived from the leaves of the stevia plant, otherwise known as ‘sweetleaf’. Despite being 30-150 times sweeter than sugar, these steviol glycosides are not metabolised by the body, and so effectively contain ‘zero’ calories.


 Steviol glycosides have been ‘generally recognised as safe’ by the US FDA, and won EU approval in 2011. An acceptable daily limit of 4 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight per day has been set by the European Food Safety Authority, a level consistent with that already established by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. 


Interestingly, there appear to be no clear risks associated with high levels of steviol glycoside consumption. One study found that the chronic use of 1000 mg of rebaudioside A over the course of 16 weeks did not alter the blood pressure, body weight, or fasting lipids of subjects with type 2 diabetes when compared to a placebo. Indeed, steviol glycosides are particularly suitable for diabetics, as well as children and pregnant women, who are more vulnerable to the effects of excess dietary sugar.


Nevertheless, being able to effectively quantify levels of flavours and additives in foodstuffs is essential in ensuring labelling accuracy - not least because some such compounds are far from harmless in excess.


 For example, choline is a nutrient found in many foods, including meat, dairy products, eggs, and cruciferous vegetables. Choline is essential for the regulation of the brain, nervous system, and other bodily functions, due to its role in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Some multivitamin dietary supplements contain choline, often in the form of choline bitartate.


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Choline is often supplemented in the form of choline bitartate.


Whilst it plays an essential role in regulating the body, unlike steviol glycosides, excess choline comes with its own risks. For adults, the daily upper limit for choline is 3,500 mg; for children under eight years old this figure drops to just 1000 mg. Side effects of excess choline levels include vomiting, heavy sweating, low blood pressure, and liver damage.


Science for a safer world


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Whether a substance is dangerous in excess or not, labelling accuracy is of prime importance when it comes to protecting consumers and ensuring food manufacturers are acting responsibly. Performing accurate analysis depends upon a multitude of factors, including quality, well-calibrated equipment, highly competent analysts, and reference materials you can rely on. 


That’s where we come in. When working with our Dr. Ehrenstorfer range of reference materials for flavours and additives, you’ll know you can count on the quality of your reference materials. 


All our reference materials are manufactured under our ISO 17025 accreditation, whilst a significant portion are ISO 17034-accredited. These reference materials include explicit statements of homogeneity, stability, and uncertainty, meaning you can rest assured that you’re working with quality products.


Take a look at our extensive range of food flavour and additive reference materials, or get in touch to find out more.


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