Researchers Found Scalable Methods for Producing Low-Calorie Sugar Substitutes

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, working with the Mars Advanced Research Institute, have made a noteworthy advancement in the synthesis of allulose, a low-calorie sugar substitute. The discovery has the potential to mitigate production costs, which are a major hindrance to the extensive implementation of these substitutes.

D-psicose, another name for cellulose, is a naturally occurring rare sugar that can be used as a substitute for table sugar, sucrose. It is a desirable choice for people trying to cut back on sugar because it tastes, feels, and functions similarly. Researchers have created a technique for precise fermentation that produces products with high yields and high purity by triggering a natural process in microorganisms. This development could significantly increase these products’ accessibility and affordability.

Almost 70% of the flavor and sweetness of sucrose is provided by cellulose, which is only slightly metabolized during bodily transit. People can use it to satisfy their sweet tooth without consuming as many calories from sugar by adding it to food products. Furthermore, there is no discernible impact of cellulose on insulin and blood glucose levels.

“While cellulose is a fantastic substitute for sugar, there is currently no economical method for producing it,” stated Shota Atsumi, a chemistry professor at UC Davis and co-author of the study that was published in npj Science of Food. “Our new method is efficient, economically feasible and could be scaled up for commercial production.”

With a high purity and theoretical yield of over 99%, the new method requires less processing to isolate the desired product. The yield and purity of allulose produced using current methods are typically much lower, necessitating the use of costly separation techniques to separate allulose from the glucose and fructose starting material.

Atsumi, Jayce Taylor, a Ph.D. candidate, Professor Justin Siegel, along with several colleagues from the Mars Advanced Research Institute and the Department of Chemistry, searched for a more effective method of producing allulose. The industrial microorganism they discovered possesses the enzymes needed to produce allulose; it’s just not utilizing them in that manner.

By altering the organism’s metabolism, they were able to cause the cells to turn glucose into allulose. The cells outperform the current production methods with a notable concentration, yield of over 60%, and purity of over 95% when converting all of the glucose fed to them into allulose.

“Once flux was redirected, it turns out the cells have everything they need to do it; they just needed to be turned on and undesired pathways turned off,” Atsumi stated.

Applications for patents on the method and altered organisms have been submitted by UC Davis. In order to discuss scaling up the process, researchers are collaborating with a business partner.

References : 

Fell, A. (2023, October 24). Researchers discover scalable production technique for low-calorie sugar substitute.