- Scientists have found new methods to commercialize a sweetener called brazzein, a fruit protein originally extracted from the berries of climbing plant from West Africa, according to a report in Digital Journal.
- The University of Wisconsin in Madison first isolated this protein extract in 1994, but efforts to scale up the ingredient for commercial use have not worked.
- The South Korean group researching brazzein found a way to genetically modify bacteria to create the protein-based sweetener from a particular strain of yeast. The team was able to produce 2.6 times more brazzein than they had before using the same technique, with the results yielding a potent sweetener 2,000 times sweeter than sugar.
Brazzein, a protein-based sweetener derived from a fruit, is seen as a suitable sweetener for diabetics. It is stable over a broad pH range from 2.5 to 8 and heat stable at 98 degrees for two hours. When blended with other sweeteners, such as aspartame and stevia, researchers say brazzein reduces aftertaste and complements their flavor. Its ability to withstand heat makes it suitable for industrial food processing.
It is expensive to source brazzein directly from its natural fruit source, so researchers have had to investigate alternative methods to recreate brazzein in the lab.
However, consumers are suspicious of ingredients based on genetic modification, which may be a potential strike against adding this synthesized form of brazzein to foods. In addition, brazzein is not yet approved for use by the FDA and more studies and experimentation lie ahead before it can be used in any products.