Kagawa University researchers have developed a way to mass-produce a “rare sugar” that has 70 percent the sweetness of regular sugar but also prevents blood sugar and fat buildup.
Rare sugars, of which there are 50 or so varieties, is not readily found in the wild and have various functions and great potential for use in the food industry, pharmaceuticals and other applications. Its popularity as a healthy substitute for real sugar appears to be on the threshold of exploding nationally and possibly globally according to this article at asahi.com.
A 500-gram bottle of household syrup Rare Sugar Sweet, one of the names it’s being marketed under, sells for 1,260 yen ($12) when it was released across Japan in August last year. But in October, after it was introduced to a television audience as “a non-fattening sweetener,” Takamatsu-based RareSweet, the seller of the product, was bombarded with nearly 60,000 orders in a single week.
“People were amazed at this extraordinary sweetener,” said Koji Kondo, the 73-year-old president of RareSweet and former president of Kagawa University. “We’ve even talked with major beverage makers about developing new products.”
The relationship between rare sugar and Kagawa University goes back to 1991, when Ken Izumori was researching naturally occurring rare sugars as a specially appointed professor in the university’s Faculty of Agriculture. While carrying out his research, Izumori isolated an enzyme he discovered in soil behind the university’s cafeteria that converted fructose, a sugar found naturally in many plants and fruits, into the rare sugar D-Psicose. But the potential uses for the rare sugar at the time were little understood and so Izumori’s research was much criticized and often asked, “What good is there in making that type of sugar?”
Consequently, research on its potential uses did not readily start until the late 1990s.
Kagawa University established the Rare Sugar Research Center and the International Society of Rare Sugars in 2001.
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