Insulin syringe and refined sugar cubes. (Shutterstock) Shutterstock

“Our project is expected to bring to the global market an innovative sweet protein to replace sugar, a major cause of obesity and diabetes,” said one of the sweetener’s lead researchers.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

A team of scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is part of an international effort funded by the European Union to develop new technologies to reduce the 178 million tons of sugar the world consumes annually

The consortium, led by Professor Yoav Livney of the Technion Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, is fighting diabetes and obesity by developing the first healthy sweetener for the food and beverage market.

The sweetener is a healthy, zero-glycemic-index protein-based sugar-substitute that has the potential to revolutionize nutrition throughout the world.

For those of us who aren’t scientists, the glycemic Index is an indication of how quickly a specified amount of food will cause a rise in blood sugar level. A common sweeteners like glucose has a glycemic index (GI) of 100, while fructose is 25 and sucrose (ordinary sugar) that is made from combining glucose and fructose has a GI of 65.

So a GI of zero means you get the sweet taste, but without the sugar.

With massive sugar consumption cited as one of the main causes of spiking rates of diabetes and obesity in the world, this new sweetener will be a gamechanger.

The consortium also includes food industry heavyweights PepsiCo and Danone, as well as the small Israeli startup Amai Proteins, led by the Technion’s Dr. Ilan Samish.

Amai Proteins is a member of the “Rising Food Stars” startup club of the EIT-FOOD organization, which is sponsored by the EU and described as “Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.”

Livney said EIT Food, of which the Technion is a partner, is revolutionizing the European food ecosystem.

“Our project within this consortium is expected to bring to the global market an innovative sweet protein … to replace sugar, a major cause of obesity and diabetes,” Livney said, pointing out that both diseases are also risk factors for COVID-19 mortality.

“Sugar replacement is a tough challenge, and there is a great need for non-artificial intensive sweeteners, with a sensory profile similar to that of sugar, which is suitable for the huge global food & beverage market,” said Livney.

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