May 30 2012

Stevia and other “natural” sweeteners: are they?

FoodNavigator-USA.com did a special edition “Where next for natural sweeteners?”  “Special editions are collections of previously published articles on topics of interest to this newsletter’s food industry readers.

Why do this?  The holy grail of food technology is to find a no-calorie sweetener that tastes as good as sugar, has no bitter aftertaste, and can be marketed as “natural” because it’s extracted from plants. Examples: Stevia extracted from leaves Monk fruit sweetener.

As with high fructose corn syrup, not everyone considers these sweeteners to be natural since they have to go through chemical processing steps.

Stevia is extracted from leaves with ethanol.  Whether this process can be considered natural is currently under debate in Europe.  Some European regulators prefer “extracted from a plant source.”

Here are some of the articles.  For the complete collection, click here.

Monk fruit sweetener firm: ‘We hear daily that people are looking for alternatives to stevia’

It might not have garnered as much publicity as stevia, but monk fruit (luo han guo) “has found a niche within the all-natural market but will hit mass market sooner than stevia in this space”, according to one leading supplier… Read

Tate & Lyle: Monk fruit sweetener attracting most interest in dairy and beverages

Dairy and beverages are proving the most popular application areas for monk fruit sweetener Purefruit, says Tate & Lyle… Read

Different processes, lower cost, better taste: Is stevia still on track for mainstream success?Taste issues and high cost repeatedly have been raised as possible obstacles to widespread acceptance of stevia-derived sweeteners, but one of the many new suppliers entering the market claims that these are no longer the hurdles they once were… Read

Steviol glycosides are not ‘all-natural’, says new class action lawsuitA class action lawsuit filed in California this week argues that steviol glycosides should not be considered natural, owing to the “chemical processing” sometimes used to extract them from the stevia leaf… Read

Stevia buyers beware: There are some ‘awful’ extracts out there…

While traders “jumping in and out of the stevia marketplace” are disrupting prices and standards by peddling some “awful” extracts, high-quality stevia suppliers in it for the long-haul will ultimately prosper, according to one leading player… Read

Stevia in snacks and baked goods – stealth, competition, and potential

While stevia is beginning to take off in a number of baked goods and snack categories in the US, Asian and South American markets, some other emerging ‘natural’ sweeteners look ready to take it on in the segment, claims Datamonitor… Read

Naturally-positioned sweeteners to lead market growth: Report

The US alternative sweeteners market will grow by 3.3% a year to reach about $1.4bn in 2015 – and naturally positioned sweeteners like stevia and agave nectar will lead the way, claims a new report from market research organization Freedonia… Read

Sep 20 2010

One more time: corn sugar chemistry

Thanks to alert reader Glen for pointing out that the FDA already has a regulation for Corn Sugar in the Code of Federal Regulations, under food substances Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).  CFR Section 184.1857 reads:

(a) corn sugar (C6H12O6, CAS Reg. No. 50-99-7), commonly called D-glucose or dextrose, is the chemical [alpha]-D-glucopyranose. It occurs as the anhydrous or the monohydrate form and is produced by the complete hydrolysis of corn starch with safe and suitable acids or enzymes, followed by refinement and crystallization from the resulting hydrolysate.

(b) The ingredient meets the specifications of the Food Chemicals Codex, 3d Ed. (1981), pp. 97-98 under the heading “Dextrose….”

(c) In accordance with 184.1(b)(1), the ingredient is used in food with no limitation other than current good manufacturing practice.

The Corn Refiners have just petitioned the FDA to be allowed to use the name Corn Sugar to apply to both glucose/dextrose and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  But the existing definition seems to exclude HFCS.  While HFCS is about half glucose, it is also about half fructose, and its manufacture from corn starch requires one more enzyme.

A reminder about sugar chemistry:

  • Glucose is the sugar in blood, and dextrose is the name given to glucose produced from corn but biochemically they are identical.
  • Fructose is the principal sugar in fruit.  In fruit, it raises no issues because it is accompanied by nutrients and fiber.
  • Sucrose is table sugar.  It is a double sugar, containing one part each of glucose (50%) and fructose (50%), chemically bound together.  Enzymes in the intestine quickly and efficiently split sucrose into glucose and fructose, which are absorbed into the body as single sugars.
  • HFCS is made from corn starch.  It contains roughly equivalent amounts of glucose (45 to 58%) and fructose (42 to 55%).

HFCS raises several issues, health and otherwise:

  • Quantity: the U.S. food supply provides to every American (all ages) about 60 pounds of sucrose and another 60 pounds of HFCS each year.  This is way more than is good for health.  Sugars of any kind provide calories but no nutrients.
  • Fructose: increasing evidence suggests that the metabolism of fructose–which differs from that of glucose–is associated with abnormalities.  This means that it is best to reduce intake of fructose from table sugar as well as HFCS.
  • Farm subsidies: these go to large corn producers and have kept down the cost of HFCS relative to that of sucrose.  The use of corn to make ethanol has raised the relative price of HFCS.
  • Genetic modification: Most corn grown in the United States is genetically modified to resist insects or herbicides.

From a health standpoint, it makes no difference whether the sweetener is sucrose or HFCS.

As for agave sugar as a substitute: it can have much higher concentrations of fructose than either sucrose or HFCS but its labels do not give percentages so you have no way to know how much.

Given all this, what’s your guess about what the FDA will decide?

Jan 25 2010

A quick Q and A: sugars and fats

I wish I could answer all of the questions that come into Feedback or Comments, but I cannot except occasionally.  It’s a rainy day in New York and today seems to be one of those occasions.

Q: Does the caloric value of a food change when it’s cooked?  In his latest book, “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human,” Harvard Primatologist Richard Wrangham argues that cooking foods changes the available nutrient content and actually raises the available calories.

A:  The rules of physical chemistry tell us that matter cannot be destroyed or created so the number of calories available in a food does not change with temperature.  What can change is our ability to use (digest, absorb) the calories that are there as well as our desire to eat the foods.  Cooking makes the calories in potato starch more available, for example, but has hardly any effect on the calories in meat.  Both, in my opinion at least, taste better cooked.    But cooked or not, the calorie differences will be small and unlikely to account significantly for weight change.

The nutrient situation is also complicated.  Cooking destroys some nutrients (vitamin C is a good example) but makes others more available (beta-carotene).  This is another reason why nutritionists are always advising variety in food intake.  Variety applies to cooked and raw, as well.

Q.  Can you please explain what benefits, if any, there are in using a “natural” sweetener, e.g. agave, over regular sugar?  Are there any differences in terms of glucose/fructose makeup?

A.  Agave is more expensive so you probably won’t use as much of it.  Beyond that, it is higher in fructose than table sugar or honey.  This is because agave contains inulin, a polymer of fructose, which must be hydrolyzed (broken down by heat or enzymes) to fructose to make the sweetener.  It’s a processed sweetener requiring one hydrolysis step, requiring more processing than honey and less than high fructose corn syrup.  It has the same number of calories as any other sugar, about 4 per gram or 16 per teaspoon.

Q.  Also, you’ve written on a prior blog that fructose is “preferentially” metabolized into fat by the body.  Can you explain in more detail what that means?

A.  More and more evidence suggests that high amounts of fructose in the diet are not good for health.  Fructose occurs naturally in fruit and nobody worries about that because fruits don’t contain all that much and the sugar is accompanies by vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are well worth eating.  Honey, table sugar, and high fructose corn syrup (a misnomer) are about 50% each glucose and fructose.  Glucose and fructose are metabolized differently and some investigators believe that excessive amounts of fructose stress metabolism in ways that encourage fat deposition.  Eating a lot of sugars of any kind is not a great idea, which is why there are so many concerns about soft drinks these days.

Q.  I would appreciate some comments about the “Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease.

A.  The study concludes:  

A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD [coronary heart disease] or CVD [cardiovascular disease]. More data are needed to elucidate whether CVD risks are likely to be influenced by the specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat.

This is a review of previous epidemiological studies (not clinical trials).  These fail to find a correlation between consumption of saturated fat and heart disease.  This could be because there is no correlation or there is one but they can’t find it.  My interpretation: even if there is one, it is likely to be small.

I am increasingly convinced that studies of single nutrients – sugar, fructose, saturated fat, or even omega-3s – will give complicated results when removed from their dietary context.  People who eat foods containing a lot of sugars or animal fats eat and behave differently than people who do not, but not so differently that health differences will show up in the kinds of studies scientists are currently able to do.

Keep in mind: nutrition science is exceedingly difficult to do because there are so many factors in foods that affect health and so many behavioral, economic, and social factors that affect what people eat.

All of this is why I find nutrition so interesting but I can understand why others might find it frustrating.

Nov 30 2008

Media

This page is somewhat disorganized in that I now put occasional print, audio, and video interviews, which used to be separated, together by year.  The section at the very end is called Controversies; it is where I post letters from critics.  Scroll down to find whatever you are looking for.  Media interviews and reviews for specific books are on the pages for that book.  For podcasts and videos of presentations, look under Appearances and scroll down for Past Appearances.

Interviews and presentations

2014

April 7  Heritage Radio interview with Katy Keiffer on FDA’s problems with GRAS status for food additives.

March 26  Radio interview with BBC on the fat tax

March 13  REAL Food Innovator Awards presentation video

March 13   Food Bites with Edible Charlotte (online print interview)

March 12  HeritageRadio on the food label

March  Interview with Alex Jamieson about nutrition education on the 20th anniversary of SuperSize Me!.

February 27  Radio interview with KCRW on the new food label.

February 26  TV interview ABC Eyewitness News on the new food label.

February 26  Radio interview with Brian Lehrer on the new food label.

February 26  CBS TV interview about bagged salads.

February 25  Prevention Magazine’s 11 Founding Foodies

February 20  CSPAN video of panel discussion about Nick Freudenberg’s book, Lethal but Legal.

February 21  Interview (print) with Endocrinology about the Brazilian dietary guidelines.

February 17 Radio interview (and transcript) with Lynne Rossetto Kaspar’s Splendid Table on the farm bill.

February 13  Podcast and transcription of interview with REAL (Responsible Eating And Living)

February 12 Interview with Swiss Public Radio on functional foods  .

February 12  Radio interview with The TakeAway on school food.

February 12  Heritage Radio on the farm bill

January 22  Interview with Isabela Sattamini for the World Public Health NutritioInterview with Swiss Public Radion Association online journal.

January 20  On Heritage Radio talking to Katy Keiffer about dietary supplements.

2013: for media about Eat, Drink, Vote, click here.

December 20  WNYC interview with Leonard Lopate on Food Friday.

December 16 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio interview with Jill Eisen.  Stuffed Part 2.

December 12  Interview with Brian Lehrer on Mayor Bloomberg’s public health legacy.

December 10  Interview (TV) with Dr. Oz on chicken from China.

December 9  Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio interview with Jill Eisen, Stuffed Part 1.

December 7  CSPAN interview with Pedro Echevarria on genetically modified food labeling (45 minutes).

November 8  Radio interview with Brian Lehrer on FDA’s removal of GRAS status from trans fat.

November 1  Interview with Aaron Task on Yahoo (video): the food stamp cuts

October 25  Huffington Post on James Beard Leadership Award.

October 24  NYU Steinhardt News on the James Beard award.

October 22  Remarks (video) at James Beard food conference (scroll down to #6)

September 26  Franklin & Marshall Common Hour lecture, video

September 24  Podcast with SeaChange on empathy.

August 31  Podcast interview with Meghan Telpner.  Also, blog interview (undated).

July 18  Interview with Heritage Radio about the NYC Mayoral Candidate’s Forum

July 17  Livestream of NYC Mayoral Candidate’s Forum, which I moderated.

June 20  Interview for the Village Voice with Eve Turow on my history with food studies.

June 19  “Evolutionaries” interview with Heritage Radio.

June 17  Video interview with James Andrews of Food Safety News.

June 4   Podcast interview with REAL (Responsible Eating and Living) on the tenth anniversary edition of Food Politics.

June 2    Interview with Revista Foodie, Uruguay (in Spanish): “Marion Nestle: Activista Foodie” (there’s a video that goes with it).

May 12  Interview on Heritage Radio with Katy Keiffer on the tenth anniversary of Food Politics.

May 10 Interview on WRVO radio with Lorraine Rapp and Linda Lowen on food labels.

May 4   Report on the Food Book Fair panel discussion of food companies’ role in food systems.

April 28  Interview with Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC about GMOs.  And here’s the second section.

April 8 Interview with Robin Davis of The Columbus Dispatch about food politics.

March 28  Video interview with Lathe Poland for the documentary Carb-Loaded.

March 28 Interview with Nevada Public Radio on whether food stamps should only pay for “good” food.

February 26  Interview with KPCC on the horsemeat scandal.

February 8  Interview with Mauro Rosati of L’Unità on obesità infantile.

February 7 TV Interview with Aaron Task, Yahoo Finance, with Peter Pringle on A Place at the Table (hunger in America)

January 28  NPR interview with Dan Charles about Derek Yach and PepsiCo

January 26  Mrs. Green’s World with Kelly King

January 16  Interview with BeverageDaily.com on Coca-Cola’s “anti-obesity” ads.

January 14 Online interview with Lauroly on World Wise Beauty

January 14  Video interview with Meghan Telpner‘s Making Love in the Kitchen

January 10  Video interview on Star Talk, co-hosts Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Eugene Mirman, with Anthony Bourdain, about the science of cooking (sort of).

2012

December 16  Interview with Katy Keiffer on Heritage Radio, with Cristin Couzens, on sugar.

November 25  Interview with Lynne Rossetto Kaspar at the Splendid Table on the farm bill

November 24  Interview with Rena Nagarajan in the Times of India: “Give them food, not nutrient-packed pills.”

November 17 Interview with Maggie Fox of NBC News on the demise of Twinkies.

November 13 Video interview with NewsHouse at Syracuse University (6.40 minutes).

October 12  Interview with Childhood Obesity (21012;8:421-422) on Kids Don’t Need Kids’ Foood.

September undated  Podcast interview with Trevor Jackson of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on corporate influences on obesity.

September 10  New York Times blog debate on whether organics are worth it.

September 7 Radio interview with Brian Lehrer on whether organics are worth it.

August 9 Radio interview with Patt Morrison, KPCC, on Diet Coke’s 30th birthday.

August 6  Interview with Alexandra Zissu on Abesmarket.com about the meaning of “natural.”

June 28  Interview on Food Sleuth radio with Melinda Hemmelgarn, KOPN.  Also on Public Radio Exchange and on iTunes.

June 22  Review in the Daily Meal of my speech on the farm bill.

June 20  CBS TV interview on pizza companies objections to menu labeling

June 20 BBC TV interview on the people who made us fat (I’m in there someplace)

June 20  Interview on Huffington Post with Danielle Nierenberg based on an interview in a book produced by Barilla. There may be some audio with this too.

July 18 Presentation on SNAP at capitol hill briefing (video)

June 14  Video interview with Aaron Task on Yahoo about who profits from food stamps.

June 6 NPR All Things Considered on Disney’s announcement on kids’ marketing.

June 4 Brownfield Ag News interview with Tom Steever on FDA’s decision not to allow HFCS to be called corn sugar

June 1  Heritage radio clips on obesity.

May 23 Radio interview with Leonard Lopate WNYC, with Peter Kaminsky

May 21 Print interview with Revital Federbush for an Israeli women’s magazine, mostly about dairy foods I’m told (it’s in Hebrew, which I cannot read, alas).

May 8  Interview with Eliot Spitzer on Viewpoint

April 15 Interview with Katy Kieffer on Heritage Radio’s Straight–No Chaser.

April 14 Interview with SunnySideUp radio, Lexington, KY.

April 13  Interview with CBS News online: 10 myths about calories, busted.

April 11  Interview with Dr. Joe Schwarcz in Montreal (podcast)

April 11  Interview about Why Calories Count on Taste Matters with Mitchell Davis on Heritage Radio

April 5  Interview Q and A for the NYU/Steinhardt website.

March 21  Radio interview with KPCC ‘s Patt Morrison on Sugar v. Corn Refiners

March 9  Audio interview with Ben Greenfield on food politics.

February 21  Interview with Cornell Chronicle about calorie talk.

February 1: Interview with the Boston Globe on the farm bill.

January 16: Interview with Louisa Kasden, Boston Phoenix Stuff Magazine, on my upcoming talk on the farm bill at the Boston Museum of Science.

January 5: NPR interview with Joy Wang on cleaning out your kitchen.

January 2012:  Interview with Juliann Schaffer in Today’s Dietitian.

2011
November 11   Splendid Table with Lynn Rossetto Kaspar, radio interview on the farm bill (starts at minute 7:05)

October 28  Panel discussion at Grand Central Station on the occasion of Consumer Reports’ 75th birthday (with Urvashi Rangan, Willie Neuman, and Bill Marler).

October 15  Radio interview with KCRW’s Even Kleiman on corn sugar.

October 2  Radio interview with Patrick Martins and Katy Kieffer on food politics,  Heritage Radio, the Main Course

September 22  Interview in the Lethbridge Herald (Alberta, Canada) on lecture at the University of Lethbridge

September 19  Interview with NourishLife about food politics

September 13 My politics of food lecture to UC Berkeley’s Edible Education 101 course is available in video online.

September 1  KCRW Warren Olney on “blah chicken, bland tomatoes (Barry Estabrook), and the food revolution (me).

Fall    Interview with Sarah Eva Kamenetz, dining editor, Washington Square News, the Food Issue.  My interview is on page 25.

August 28 Radio interview with Radio Health Journal on health claims.

August 25 Entrevista con Flor Codagnone in Cukmi (Argentina), in Spanish.

August 20   Reviews of Food Politics and What to Eat at Weekend Eating Reading with Eat with Joy

August 5 Interview with David Freeman of CBS News on a study of the high cost of produce.

August 2  Interview with Consumer Reports about McDonald’s Happy Meals makeover

August   Qualigeo-EU, first issue. My interview about food safety begins on page 70.

July 19    Radio interview with Ed Dodge’s Joy’s of Healthy Living on food politics

July 19 Video interview with Independent Sources on marketing to kids.

July 6  CNN Eatocracy video on eating on the subway

June 20  Interview with Jennifer Abbasi of EverydayHealth: “Delicious propaganda: 12 fascinating food posters.”

June 11 Interview with Evan Kleiman, Good Food radio, on food guides and the new food plate (scroll down to find it).

June 8 Radio interview with Steve Boss on KRUU Great Taste on MyPlate, the German E. coli outbreak, and other issues.

June 3 Video interview with the irreverent Mo Rocca of CBS about the USDA’s new food plate.

June 2 Interview with Scientific American about the new USDA food icon

April 7  Interview with Modeled Behavior about food dyes

April 6 Radio interview with Caryn Hartglass on It’s All About Food

March 28  Time Magazine’s “140 Best Twitter Feeds” includes @marionnestle

March 28  Interview with Michael Moss on school food in Philadelphia.  I’m in the video.

March  NYU Alumni Magazine about the Fales food studies book collection

March 9  ABC Nightline on Heart Attack Grill

March 2  Melanie Warner BNet on my post about HFCS

March  Michael Moss’s Food Fight video

February 8 The editor of Scientific American, Mariette DiChristina, interviews me for a Google Science Fair project that I’m judging next summer.

February 1  Unexpected appearance on Colbert, about Walmart’s food initiatives (via ABC News clip)

January 20 NPR interview with Robert Siegel on All Things Considered about the Walmart announcement

January 20  ABC News interview about the Walmart announcement

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2001 to 2005

1993

Brief clip from interview with David Rosengarten and Donna Hanover on the TV Food Network

Controversies

The Amazon.com Debate:

The Threatened Lawsuit from the Sugar Association of America:

The Consumer-Choice Debate