Sweet news for sweet tooths

by Jeff Gelski
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A sweetener known for its ability to slow digestion recently qualified for another health benefit that may be promoted in products. The Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 14 said isomaltulose may be used in products that bear the claim "does not promote tooth decay."

"F.D.A. now has determined that the nutritive sweetener isomaltulose, like other noncariogenic carbohydrate sweeteners listed in the dental caries health claim regulation, is not fermented by oral bacteria to an extent sufficient to lower dental plaque pH to levels that would contribute to the erosion of dental enamel," the F.D.A. said in an interim final rule. "Therefore, F.D.A. has concluded that isomaltulose does not promote dental caries."

Cargill, Minneapolis, offers Xtend isomaltulose, which may be applied in such products as confectionery, beverages and chewing gum. Palatinit sells isomaltulose under the Palatinose brand name. It may be used in beverages, dairy and other health-oriented products, said Tonja Lipp, technical sales manager for Palatinit of America, Morris Plains, N.J.

"Lately, Palatinit has conducted a number of studies looking at consumer preference in sugar-free confectionery and has determined a significant interest in products that do not promote tooth decay," Ms. Lipp said.

Cargill offers statistics from Mintel International’s Global New Products Database (G.N.P.) that show the number of products launched worldwide with tooth-friendly claims climbed to 22 so far in 2007, which compared with 10 in 2005 and 18 in 2006. According to the G.N.P., the confectionery category takes up 78% of tooth-friendly product claims among all food and beverage categories and is followed by health care (7%), oral hygiene (6%), beverage (6%), dairy (2%) and bakery (1%).

For statistics on one confectionery product, U.S. sales of sugar-free chewing gum were $893.5 million for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 11, 2007, which compared with $543.9 million for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 16, 2003, according to The Nielsen Co. Sales covered U.S. food, drug and mass merchandisers, not including Wal-Mart.

The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., Chicago, plans to promote a Sept. 25 decision by the American Dental Association (see Page 10). The A.D.A.’s Council on Scientific Affairs awarded the A.D.A. Seal of Acceptance to Wrigley sugar-free chewing gums Orbit, Extra and Eclipse because they clinically are shown to help prevent cavities, reduce plaque and strengthen teeth. None of the three Wrigley gum varieties have isomaltulose on their respective ingredient lists, but such polyol sweeteners as sorbitol, mannitol and maltitol are on the ingredient lists as are other sweeteners aspartame, acesulfame potassium and sucralose.

Products designed for preschool children might be another opportunity for sugar-free or tooth-friendly claims. Tooth decay in primary or baby teeth of children aged 2 to 5 increased to 28% for the years 1999-2004, as compared with 24% for the years 1988-94, according to a report released in April by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta.

"If combined with other ingredients resistant to fermentation in the mouth in healthy drink concepts, Palatinose can contribute to lowering the prevalence of tooth decay among toddlers," Ms. Lipp said.

Isomaltulose is not excluded from any product marketed to children, according to Cargill.

Isomaltulose is a carbohydrate and sugar and not a polyol. All polyols, also known as sugar alcohols, qualify for the F.D.A.’s claim about not promoting tooth decay. The polyols xylitol and sorbitol scored highest in a report evaluating non-cariogenic sweeteners and the prevention of dental caries. The Harvard School of Medicine, Boston, reviewed 14 clinical studies for the report, which was released early this decade.

The highest caries reductions were observed in subjects using xylitol. Xylitol, a naturally occurring 5-carbon polyol sweetener, is 40% as sweet as sucrose and has a caloric value of 2.4 kcal/gram, which compares with 4 kcal/gram for sucrose. Danisco offers xylitol for use in such products as chewing gum and confectionery.

Isomaltulose is half as sweet as sucrose and has the same caloric value as sucrose. Palatinose isomaltulose is slowly and fully digested in the small intestine, Ms. Lipp said. Xtend isomaltulose is obtained from sucrose by enzymatic conversion and has the same energy value as sucrose, but it is digested more slowly and absorbed completely, which results in sustained release of energy to the body, according to Cargill.

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