Citrus May Be the Key to Unlocking Natural Sweeteners

Good news if you have a sweet tooth.

(VAlekStudio /

The biological mechanisms of taste are intricate and varied. People’s palates are capable of perceiving a cornucopia of tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and savory. Together, these tastes harmonize into delectable flavor combinations. 

Although some citrus fruits, like grapefruits and lemons, are associated with the sour taste, citrus may be the key to unlocking a sugar substitute that provides a sweet flavor without the health risk, according to a study published in

Honey without the sting
According to Healthline, the sugar our taste buds crave is good, in moderation. But too much sugar is associated with a number of health risks, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and even some cognitive impairments.

Food scientists are on the hunt for a sugar substitute that provides the honey without the sting, or, in other words, the sweet taste without the health risks of sugar.

According to the study, the artificial sweeteners used, saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame, have a bitter aftertaste. Many are also expensive or difficult to produce. Consumers prefer naturally derived sweeteners to artificial ones..

Discovering Oxime V
Finding an effective, tasty, and healthy sugar substitute is the number one challenge for the food industry. With that in mind, New Atlas reports that Yu Wang, the associate professor of food science at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, led research that studied 11 citrus cultivars in search of new low-caloric sweeteners.

Wang told New Atlas that the research team uncovered eight potential sweetener compounds, including the natural source for a known sweetener compound. "We were able to identify a natural source for an artificial sweetener, oxime V, that had never been identified from any natural source previously," Wang said.

Scientists had studied synthetic oxime V about 50 years ago but had never seen it in a naturally occurring form prior to this study. 

Future applications
Wang hopes that this study will eventually allow food scientists to unlock natural, good-tasting sweeteners that are healthy and low in sugar. But, the practical applications of the study apply even in the short term.

Citrus growers can use the information gleaned from studying these citrus cultivars to selectively breed fruits containing these compounds, thus producing sweeter fruits that still have less natural sugars. Wang said, “This creates expanded opportunities for citrus growers and for breeding cultivars to be selected to obtain high yields of sweetener compounds.”

Nature has a solution for everything. Maybe oxime V can be the natural solution to high-sugar foods? Or, at the very least, it can unlock sweeter, and better tasting fruits. 

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