oo much refined sugar is blamed for a wave of obesity and ill-health, so the search is on for the perfect sweetener. But it’s not an easy task, writes Michael Mosley.
I have had a love affair with sugar that has lasted all of my life. I adore the sweet stuff and in my youth knocked back gallons of sugary drinks and ate as many desserts as I could sink my teeth into.
Unfortunately it is a love affair that has brought me nothing but grief. The sugar I gleefully ate and drank rotted my teeth, so that almost every tooth in my face has had to be filled, drilled or replaced. All those sugary carbs also helped pile on the fat, which sent my blood sugar levels soaring.
Recently I have managed to cut down my sugary intake but never quite managed to quit. So, not surprisingly I’ve been on a quest to find a substitute, something that will satisfy my sweet teeth (or what remains of them) without the unfortunate side effects. I’ve tried aspartame, saccharin, xylitol and stevia. I haven’t found any of them convincing, though pure stevia isn’t bad when you mix it with sugar and add to stewed fruit.
So I was intrigued when the team making a new series for BBC One, Tomorrow’s Food, invited me to try the extract of an African fruit, called the miracle berry. Derived from a plant called Synsepalum dulcificum, it is unlike any artificial sugar I’d tried before – because it works not by making foods sweeter, but by making them taste sweeter.