24th January|Scientific Media

Promising results from study show that zero-calorie prebiotic sweeteners could replace sugar in food and drink products

Human taste studies carried out by the Flavour and Sensory Science Centre at the University of Reading have found that zero-calorie prebiotic sweeteners, developed by OptiBiotix Health, are significantly sweeter than other existing sugars and sweeteners. These results suggest that the natural, zero-calorie, healthy prebiotic sweeteners could work as bulk sugar replacements in a wide range of food and drink products.

These high-intensity prebiotic ‘oligosaccharides’, known as SweetBiotix®, are naturally sweet and healthy fibres which are not digested in the gut, meaning that they are calorie-free . OptiBiotix has been developing these fibres as potential bulk sugar replacements, as they have sweetness similar to sucrose but contain no calories. In addition, as the fibres are prebiotics, they also work to improve microbiome diversity, which has been linked to numerous health benefits.

The University of Reading study tested eight samples of sugars and sweeteners, including OptiBiotix’s oligosaccharides. A panel of 11 experienced experts rated 11 attributes, including sweet taste, strength of off-flavour (e.g. bitterness, saltiness), and sweet after taste, compared to sucrose. The sweet oligosaccharide developed by OptiBiotix was found to be significantly sweeter than all other samples, as well as low in all off-flavours, including bitterness, sourness, staleness, and saltiness. The most substantial differences between the samples were in sweet taste, strength of off-flavour, and sweet after taste.

Dr Lisa Methven, Director of the University of Reading’s Sensory Science Centre, and lead investigator on the study, commented, “OptiBiotix’s oligosaccharides performed very well against the other samples in our study, particularly on overall sweetness. These results suggest that these sweet prebiotic fibres could work well as bulk sugar replacements in food and drink products, although further functionality testing is needed.”

Stephen O’Hara, CEO of OptiBiotix, said, “We are very pleased that the results of this study showed that OptiBiotix’s sweet oligosaccharide had the highest sweetness, and was low in off-flavours, when compared to a wide range of existing sugars and prebiotics. This development creates the potential to replace existing ‘unhealthy’ sugars with low calorie, healthy non-digestible fibres with gut microbiome functionality.

With growing concerns over the impact on health of traditional sugars and artificial sweeteners, the ability to develop sweet functional fibres puts OptiBiotix at the forefront of product development in this area of growing industry and commercial interest.”
Previous studies of OptiBiotix’s SweetBiotix® oligosaccharides have shown that they are both safe for human consumption, as between 140x and 223x the sweetness of sucrose. This means that a far lower concentration of oligosaccharides would be required to achieve the same level of sweetness as sucrose.