New Natural Sweetener Found in Brazzein Plant

Scientists say they've found a plant that's 2,000 times sweeter than sugar—but of course there's a catch.


By Charlotte Hilton Anderson, Fitness Magazine

Having our cake and eating it too—it's something we've all been wanting for years. But so far, healthy-minded women have been left with choosing between artificial sweeteners that seem to cause more problems than they solve, or eating treats with straight-up sugar, calories be darned. (For an eye-popping look at what sugar really does to your body, check out this handy infographic.) Now, however, scientists have found a natural protein that they say could be the answer to all our sweet-treat dreams.

Brazzein is a protein extracted from the fruit of the Oubli plant found in West Africa. And unlike other plant-based sweeteners (like stevia), it's 2,000 times sweeter than table sugar, making it a natural, low-calorie alternative, according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Scientists have known about brazzein for years, but the plant only produces the protein in very small amounts, making it hard to mass market. But this new research identifies a way to use bacteria from yeast that can help double the production of the stuff.

Before you set all your dieting dreams on this fruit, though, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. For instance, would brazzein cause the same issue issue with brain chemicals that artificial sweeteners do, making it harder to feel satiated? Would something so super-sweet just teach our tastebuds to prefer even sweeter things, leading to more intense cravings? And are there any health risks from eating it in concentrated doses? It could very well be another example of a nutrient being good for us in its whole-food form, but not-so-good for us in isolation.

While science sorts this all out, the best advice is still moderation with all sweet treats regardless of the source, says nutrition expert Mike Rousell, Ph.D.
Healthy Eating

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