Nestlé Claims Ability to Slash Sugar from Chocolate Without Sacrificing Taste

Scientists at the food giant reportedly found a novel way of altering the molecular structure of sugar. 

 

Kit Kat display.
A display of Kit Kat singles.

For those of us obsessed with chocolate, including yours truly, this announcement sounds too good to be true. After all, the food industry has made some extraordinary claims about sweeteners in the past that didn’t really pan out. (I’m looking at you, Stevia). Turns out they are all bad for you. And remember those fat-free chips with olestra that were supposed to give you that same great snacking experience, without the added heart disease or expanded waistline? They caused an embarrassing little side effect known as “anal leakage.” So excuse me, Nestlé, for my skepticism.


According to the Swiss food giant, scientists in their employ have found a way to cut the sugar content of chocolate up to 40% without sacrificing taste. Researchers have altered the molecular structure of sugar, hollowing it out in such a way where it tastes sweeter when it engages the tongue, yet dissolves faster, leading to a smaller amount being ingested.

Using this unique process, Nestlé plans to reduce the sugar content in all of its confectioneries, including the Kit Kat and the ever popular Butterfinger. This comes on the heels of many US cities such as New York and Philadelphia, and other nations including the UK and Mexico, implementing sugar taxes on such products. Since 1980, childhood obesity and diabetes has quadrupled, and research has shown that such disincentives can positively influence behavior. PepsiCo Inc. and others have their own teams of scientists searching for ways to cut sugar. Since Nestlé plans to patent their process, the insight from the filed papers could lead competitors to their own processes.

Sugar is nothing more than empty calories. Eating too much of it can pack on the pounds, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. More worrisome still, a high sugar intake can elevate your risk of heart disease, regardless of whether or not you are overweight. For Americans, sugary drinks are the biggest threat, particularly sodas, fruit juices, sweetened iced teas, and sports drinks. Candy, ice cream, and baked goods are significant contributors, however.

 Nestlé, Pepsi Co., and Frito Lay among others have recently vowed to reduce unhealthy ingredients in products.

Health experts advise five percent of daily calories come from sugar, maximum. According to the American Heart Association, a man’s limit is nine teaspoons or 37.5 grams per day. That’s 150 calories. For women its six teaspoons or 25 grams per day, equaling 100 calories.

Your average Kit Kat contains 23.8 grams of sugar. So just this candy bar alone is almost a full day’s intake. Americans are consuming an average of 20 teaspoons of sugar per day, more than twice the recommended amount.

Stefan Catsicas is Nestlé’s chief technology officer. Though he wouldn’t speak of the details which are proprietary, Catsicas said the process entails hollowing out sugar crystals. The company is patenting this method, and will use it with all its products by 2018. Nestlé began investigating sugar reduction due to pressure from governments, consumer advocate agencies, and consumers themselves. The obesity epidemic worldwide is rising significantly, and governments around the world are growing more and more concerned.

So how did they stumble upon this molecular miracle? “Real food in nature is not something smooth and homogeneous,” Catsicas told Bloomberg News. “It’s full of cavities, crests and densities. So by reproducing this variability, we are capable to restore the same sensation.” Meanwhile, Pepsi Co. is reportedly experimenting with a similar process with salt. Say hello to healthier Cheetos… maybe.  

To learn more about how to eat healthier click here: 

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

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Research suggests that aging affects a brain circuit critical for learning and decision-making.

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash
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