The low-calories sugar substitute made from algae

[UK] British scientists claim to have found a way of making chocolate more waistline-friendly – with the help of a tiny marine organism.

They discovered that a green algae, similar to those that cause scum to form on ponds, produce a sugar-like chemical to protect it from harm. When refined into a white powder, the substance can be used to sweeten products without adding calories.

Although the as-yet unnamed sweetener is said to feel like sugar in the mouth, tests suggest that it passes through the body without being digested. It is being developed in conjunction with confectionery giant Mars by GlycoMar, a marine biotechnology company run by the inventor of Viagra.

With pressure on food manufacturers to cut sugar content in the face of an obesity epidemic, up to a third of UK chocolate is expected to be low-calorie by 2021 – so firms are racing to find the perfect substitute.

GlycoMar found that a tiny green algae, Prasinococcus capsulatus, produces a sweetener that does not have a bitter taste or unpleasant texture and are now working on ways to produce it on an industrial scale to compete with sugar on price. It can be grown in seawater in large plastic bags and feeds on carbon dioxide, so is environmentally friendly.

The Scottish firm already uses seaweed – a form of algae – and other marine organisms to make medicines. Mars is testing the new sweetener in chocolate.

GlycoMar chairperson Professor Mike Wyllie, one of the team that developed Viagra, said: “Assuming the taste is the same, low-calorie chocolate would be welcomed by consumer and NHS alike.” Just like other male enhancement alternatives – or at least the ones that work, are welcomed as an alternative, you can look at some available online here.

But chocolate expert Angus Kennedy warned: “I don’t think sugar will go away, because people enjoy it too much.”


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