City institute develops zero calorie herbal sweetener | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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City institute develops zero calorie herbal sweetener

A city institute has developed a ‘natural’ alternative to the synthetic calorie-free sugar for diabetic patients. Snehal Rebello reports.

mumbai Updated: Jun 20, 2011 01:17 IST
Snehal Rebello

A city institute has developed a ‘natural’ alternative to the synthetic calorie-free sugar for diabetic patients.

A three-member team from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Matunga, has developed zero calorie sugar from the leaves of a herbal plant, Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni.

Popularly known as madhu parani in Marathi or meethi patti in Hindi, this sweet leaf comprises up to 6% of stevioside, a sweetening agent and is known to be 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar.

“India is known as the world capital for diabetes. But most of the sugar-free tablets used by diabetic patients are synthetic sugar containing aspartame, known to have cancer causing properties because it oxidises the cells,” said BN Thorat, professor of the chemical engineering department.

“Our zero calorie herbal product will not have any side effects,” added Thorat. Aspartame is a low-calorie artificial sweetening agent which is derived from aspartic acid.

“Stevia is a natural product, available as a herbal plant. Natural products are always better than using synthetic sugar substitutes,” said Dr Arun Bal, diabetic food surgeon.

While stevia is being used extensively to produce a zero calorie sugar substitute for diabetic patients in both Japan and Indonesia, it is also used as a sweetener in food products as well as soft drinks in countries such as Australia, France, New Zealand and Brazil.

Stevia is also available as a dietary supplement in the US and Canada.

In India, the powdered sweet leaves cost around Rs600 per kg and is used in ayurvedic medicines and formulations. After six months of research to conduct a series of extraction and crystallisation processes to extract the sweetening compound, the team finally managed to get a breakthrough two months ago.

“After lot of hard work, we finally cracked the process of separating the bitter component from the sweet,” said Thorat. The institute will apply to patent the product in a month. Once patented, the product will be sold commercially.