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Following is some information I have gathered the Diet Pepsi Slurpee - I thought the history and the chemistry of it quite fascinating - it does not use any of the sweeteners typically found in diet colas - tagatose may actually help reduce the severity of diabetes - note that may is the operative word, the study sample was small - and if this were provable, I would have thought another larger, more conclusive study would have been done - the source links are referenced - This page is not medical advice in any way, shape or form and is intended to provide support for those experiencing similar procedures -

Pepsi's Slurpee Success

By Motley Fool Staff
September 9, 2003

Summer is coming to an end, but it's not too late to indulge in one of 7-Eleven's delicious and refreshing Slurpees. And now, thanks to a new formula from Pepsi, you can have your Slurpee without all the associated calories (and there are lots otherwise -- 100 per 8-oz. serving).

Today's Wall Street Journal reports that 7-Eleven's new Diet Pepsi Slurpee, launched last month, is enjoying "strong sales increases." This seemingly unremarkable feat is actually the result of some pretty nifty science on Pepsi's part. A Slurpee's smooth consistency is a function of the sugar crystal itself, so producing a non-sugar Slurpee was no simple matter.

7-Eleven approached both Pepsi and Coca-Cola last summer in an effort to develop a suitable diet Slurpee formula. Ultimately, Pepsi's scientists won out with a formula consisting of three sugar substitutes: tagatose, erythritol, and sucralose. The Journal says that tagatose, produced by Spherix, was instrumental in attaining the smooth Slurpee consistency, without freezing up the Slurpee machine as the syrup is mixed at 28 degrees.

Coca-Cola, for its part, told the Journal that it did come up with a Diet Coke Slurpee formula but had concerns about drink quality. Too little, too late for Coke. Like Pepsi's winning bid for Gatorade and Sobe, this marks another instance of Pepsi beating Coke to the punch.

Dallas Business Journal


August 21, 2003

7-Eleven launching no-calorie Diet Pepsi Slurpee

With an aim to hang on to older Slurpee drinkers with changing tastes and demands, 7-Eleven Inc. said it is launching several new flavors of its signature frozen carbonated beverage -- including a first-ever, no-calorie Diet Pepsi version.

The Dallas-based convenience store chain said Thursday its lineup of new flavors includes Crystal Light Pineapple Orange, which is targeted at women, dieters and diabetics, as well as those watching their carbohydrate intake. The pineapple-orange flavor will be followed by a Crystal Light Strawberry Kiwi that will be sold at some stores beginning in October, the company said.

7-Eleven also is jumping onto the energy-drink bandwagon with Sobe Energy, the first Slurpee energy drink. The citrus-punch-flavored beverage, with guarana, ginseng and taurine, is aimed at fitness-minded 18- to 34-year-old customers, 7-Eleven said.

The company said it has teamed with Mountain Dew for the "LiveWire" Slurpee; with Sprite for the "Remix" version; and with Fanta for a new banana split flavor.

Other new offerings include Memphis Melon and Hawaiian Punch, 7-Eleven said.

"Flavor development is an exacting science," said John Ryckevic, Slurpee category manager for 7-Eleven. "Something may sound great, but creating a carbonated, frozen version that meets flavor expectations sometimes takes a while. A few that sound great don't make the cut because they can't meet our flavor standards. Diet and calorie-free Slurpee flavors have posed challenges for years that we were finally able to crack."

The no-calorie Diet Pepsi Slurpee will be sold at participating stores beginning Friday. The other flavors will be available starting this month, the company said.

On average, 7-Eleven sells about 13 million Slurpees per month at its 5,800 stores in the United States and Canada and at more than 19,200 stores in other countries, the company said. The drink was introduced in 1965.



August 21, 2003

New diet Slurpee will use Spherix product

7-Eleven Inc. will introduce a new Diet Pepsi-flavored Slurpee that will contain tagatose, the signature project from Beltsville-based Spherix Inc

Ads announcing the new drink will first appear in Aug. 22 editions of USA Today and on radio stations across the country, Spherix officials said. This is the first commercial introduction of tagatose, a low-calorie full-bulk natural sugar.

Spherix says tagatose has the taste of sugar without the calories. The company also says the product is safe for diabetics and does not promote tooth decay.

"This is a wonderful event for our company," Spherix CEO Dr. Gilbert V. Levin said in a statement. "However, we are mindful that tagatose must yet be introduced into many other products, and larger factories constructed before we realize the full potential of Spherix's crown jewel."

View Thread: Diet Pepso Slurpee Made w Splenda, Erythritol and Tagatose ???



Until now, 7-Eleven Inc., parent of the Slurpee brand, and Icee Co., which has been making frozen, carbonated drinks since 1961, had little luck developing a zero-calorie, sugar-free version of their slushy sodas.

The reason: Sugar substitutes, such as NutraSweet, didn't behave like the real thing when subjected to freezing temperatures.

Desperate for a breakthrough, 7-Eleven challenged researchers at the nation's two leading soda brands -- Pepsico Inc. and Coca-Cola Inc. -- to develop a workable recipe.

The challenge paid off: Diet Pepsi Slurpees arrived Friday at 7-Eleven stores nationwide.

``We finally cracked the code,'' said Dave DeCecco, a spokesman for Pepsi-Cola North America.

Because a slushy soft drink had always required sugar to give it a smooth, semi-frozen consistency that can be ``slurped'' through a straw, developing a sugar-free product was difficult.

Every sugar-substitute formula researchers tried tended to turn the drink into a block of ice, said John Ryckevic, the Slurpee and Big Gulp category manager for the Dallas-based convenience-store chain.

Then there was the problem of temperature: Regular Slurpees freeze at 24 to 28 degrees Fahrenheit, while non-sugar prototypes seem to need temperatures a few degrees higher.

Pepsi researchers finally settled on a winning formula consisting of three sweeteners -- sucralose, erythritol and tagatose -- that allows the diet cola to freeze with the right consistency without compromising its taste.

Sucralose is Splenda, Erythritol is a Sugar Alcohol, Tagatose is a new "Low Calorie" Sweetener. The description ( sounds like a Sugar Alcohol.



It is identical in composition and structure to fructose, except for the fourth carbon atom in the chain, upon which the hydrogen and hydroxyl groups have been switched:

Research suggests that it is poorly absorbed (like a sugar alcohol, with the same possible resulting side-effects) and does not impair blood glucose levels.



slurpees are one of my all time favorite things.

i tried the diet pepsi slurpee over the weekend and wasn't overly impressed. there was still an aftertaste.

now, if diet coke could come up with one, that would be a good thing, since i like diet coke better.

but, i'll take what i can get. :rolleyes:



Nutritional info on the diet pepsi slurpee:


"What resulted from Pepsi's project was a zero-calorie, nonfat product with 2 grams of sugar in an eight-ounce serving, 25 milligrams of sodium and 2 grams of carbohydrates. An eight-ounce regular Pepsi Slurpee has 100 calories, 27 grams of sugar and 28 grams of carbohydrates."



I have to go out now and see if I can get me one of those! Thanks for the info!



"What resulted from Pepsi's project was a zero-calorie, nonfat product with 2 grams of sugar in an eight-ounce serving, 25 milligrams of sodium and 2 grams of carbohydrates. An eight-ounce regular Pepsi Slurpee has 100 calories, 27 grams of sugar and 28 grams of carbohydrates."

How interesting, so if it has 2 grams of sugar, that means it has 8 calories, not zero, since each gram of carb has 4 calories. It's so bizzare how the FDA allows deceptive labeling. This isn't really a big deal since 8 calories isn't going to kill anyone, but it just goes to show you can't always believe the label.

xo Dig



How interesting, so if it has 2 grams of sugar, that means it has 8 calories, not zero, since each gram of carb has 4 calories. It's so bizzare how the FDA allows deceptive labeling. This isn't really a big deal since 8 calories isn't going to kill anyone, but it just goes to show you can't always believe the label.

xo Dig

The 2g probably come from the Tagatose. Tagatose is technically a sugar, but is said to act like a Sugar Alcohol (partially absorbed with very little glycemic response)...Hence, the lower Caloric Value. I believe it is labelled as 1.5 kcal/g instead of 4. Anything with 3 kcal or less can be called ZERO Calorie under current regulations. I have not tried Tagatose yet, and have no idea how it really effects the body.


09/09/2003 Entry: "Building the Perfect Slurpee"

What's the difference between Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke? One is the newest flavor of Slurpee, the slushy drink sold by 7-Eleven stores. The other is still stuck in the can.

Anxious to add no-calorie options to its menu of Slurpee offerings, 7-Eleven pitted the beverage rivals in a race from the lab bench to the store counter. Pepsi won, and the Diet Pepsi Slurpee went on sale last month. But there were hiccups along the way, underscoring the complexity of the science behind even the seemingly simplest foods.

For 7-Eleven, the Slurpee is a mature $200-million-a-year business in need of a jolt. Low-calorie versions - a Crystal Light lemonade flavor introduced in 2001 and now the Diet Pepsi Slurpee - are expected to appeal to dieters, baby boomers who have long forsaken the drinks as unhealthy, and diabetics, particularly children who have avoided Slurpees because of their high sugar content.

"This is a way for us to extend our Slurpee consumer base," said John Ryckevic, who manages the business for 7-Eleven, which is based in Dallas. "We're really trying to talk to customers of all ages and get everybody interested in the category again."

That explains the arrival this summer of the SoBe Slurpee, a slushy version of the popular energy drink marketed by Pepsi. The company's biggest competitors in the slush wars are also pursuing health-conscious varieties. Slush Puppie, a unit of Dr Pepper/7Up, recently created a drink called Slush Puppie Plus that is 50 percent juice, enriched with vitamin C and low in sugar. The Icee Company, a unit of J&J Snack Foods, has a similar product called Icee Slush. Dr Pepper/7Up is a unit of Cadbury Schweppes.

When 7-Eleven approached PepsiCo and the Coca-Cola Company last year about developing a formula for a diet cola Slurpee, it hoped to put the product on sale in May. Each company jumped at the challenge. Sales of diet sodas are growing faster than those of regular ones, according to Beverage Digest, and Coke and Pepsi are both focusing on new ways to appeal to the shifting tastes of health-conscious consumers.

But coming up with the right concoction for diet frozen carbonated beverages proved to be more difficult than it sounds.

Looking back, food scientists at the Pepsico research and development labs in Valhalla, N.Y., say that they made one smart move at the start by relying on the same flavor oils that are used in regular unfrozen Diet Pepsi.

The scientists had also been working with sweetness technologies for several years and were able to identify sweeteners that would make the product taste like a diet cola without the aftertaste found in many diet drinks. They replaced aspartame, the artificial sweetener in many diet colas, with two natural sweeteners, tagatose and erythritol, and a cocktail of artificial sweeteners including sucralose.

But once the beverage was loaded into a Slurpee machine, Pepsi's progress froze. Literally.

"We used to get parts delivered every week from destroying the machines," said Rein Hirs, a senior product development scientist. "The key is not to make an icicle."

It turns out that the high sugar content in regular colas and most flavored Slurpees - which are dispensed at a frosty 28 degrees - helps the drink maintain a slushy, sherbet-like consistency. But take the sugar out of the syrup concentrate, the scientists found, and you have got a Slurpee on a stick.

"We could make you a Diet Pepsi Popsicle, no problem," said Loretta Chappell, the vice president in charge of carbonated beverage product development at Pepsi.

Ms. Chappell's team struggled for months to figure out how to keep the drink from freezing inside the equipment. At the same time, the Slurpee solution had to maintain its consistency for the 10 prime selling hours of the day. Moreover, the recipe had to work in Slurpee machines of widely varying models and ages in 7-Eleven stores across the country.

Details about the formula that ultimately worked are secret, Pepsi officials said, especially with the competition presumably so close behind.

Somewhat mysteriously, Pepsi disclosed that the diet Slurpee lacks an ingredient used in normal Diet Pepsi; removing it, the company said, improved the frozen drink's cola flavor.

In addition, the scientists said that they developed instructions for equipment operators to adjust manually each Slurpee machine's viscosity setting (which controls how much syrup goes into the mixture) and its brix ratio (which determines the amount of each ingredient in the mixture). Pepsi has created a troubleshooting guide for 7-Eleven store operators and sends members of its product development team to perform service on the machines.

What resulted from Pepsi's project was a zero-calorie, nonfat product with 2 grams of sugar in an eight-ounce serving, 25 milligrams of sodium and 2 grams of carbohydrates. An eight-ounce regular Pepsi Slurpee has 100 calories, 27 grams of sugar and 28 grams of carbohydrates.

Coke, whose long summer also included an embarrassing clash with Burger King over the marketing of a Frozen Coke beverage, was a lot less forthcoming with details of its efforts on 7-Eleven's behalf.

"We have done development work on a diet frozen carbonated beverage," said Dan Schafer, a Coke spokesman. "But until a product that consistently meets our standards can be produced, we will not move forward with that."

Even as makers of frozen carbonated drinks work on the next diet flavor, none is ready to give up on the sugar-laden slushes that have made the category popular.

"In most of our locations we have two valves, two different purchase options for consumers," said Susan Woods, the vice president for marketing at Icee, based in Ontario, Calif. "To devote one of those strictly to diet is giving up a lot. There's less people who are looking for a diet than there are who are looking for a cherry."

Issue 11.11 - November 2003

Hitting the Sweet Spot

It's got full flavor at one-third the calories. It's safe for teeth and diabetics. And it's all-natural. The long, strange search for the ultimate sugar substitute.

By Evan Ratliff

Atkins. The Zone. Slim-Fast Dark Chocolate Fudge Shakes. For decades, hucksters and scientists alike have offered an endless string of fixes for our oversize appetites and waistlines. But while their wallets may be getting thicker, we aren't getting any thinner. An even more lucrative future awaits the inventor who can give the US what we really want: the ability to eat anything in sight and not get fat.

When it comes to replacing sugar, plenty have tried. The history of sugar substitutes is a catalog of strange scientific accidents stretching back more than a century. In 1879, chemists Ira Remsen and Constantine Fahlberg synthesized a derivative of coal tar called orthobenzoyl sulfimide. One day, Fahlberg spilled the substance on his hand, which later that evening he touched to his mouth. It tasted sweet. He filed for a patent and called the substance saccharin. In 1937, a University of Illinois grad student discovered another sweetener when he set his cigarette on a lab bench during an experiment - testing a would-be antifever drug - and then took a drag off the cyclamate-coated end. In 1965, a chemist named Jim Schlatter was working on a compound to treat gastric ulcers. He licked his finger to grab a sheet of paper and tasted aspartame for the first time. Then there was the 1976 discovery of sucralose by a King's College student working with chemically altered sugars. The student - not a native English speaker - mistook his professor's instruction to "test" the material and tasted a mouthful.

Unfortunately, these products of serendipity haven't lived up to their promise. Consider the health scares - cyclamates are banned in the US; saccharin can't shake its link to cancer. And there's the fact that most sweeteners have just plain left a bad taste in our mouths. Remember Tab? Diet sodas may be better today, but they're still not quite right. Artificially sweetened foods remain a pale reflection of the real thing.

Now comes a sweetener that does all the wannabes one better: It's natural. It actually is sugar. Unlike high-intensity artificial sweeteners, tagatose looks, tastes, and cooks like sugar. It's 92 percent as sweet as table sugar but with only 38 percent of the calories. Studies suggest it prevents weight gain and doesn't cause cavities. It's safe for diabetics and may even help combat the disease.

Sound too good to be true? Take a walk down to your local 7-Eleven and check it out for yourself. Tagatose has cleared the FDA hurdles; it hit the US market in Pepsi's Diet Slurpee in August. Now Pepsi is looking beyond frozen beverages, testing tagatose in combination with other sweeteners to improve the taste of its diet sodas. Other brands could follow. Kellogg's obtained a patent in 2002 to use tagatose in "improved sucrose-free, noncarcinogenic, reduced-calorie, insulin-independent" sweet cereals. Wrigley and Kraft have patents of their own. As a result, tagatose could begin popping up in products on US grocery store shelves by the end of the year. And its arrival will mark the culmination of the most bizarre sugar substitute discovery of all.

On a sunny morning in his office in Beltsville, Maryland, 79-year-old Gilbert Levin is hunched over a press release from the Danish dairy company Arla Foods. The firm, which holds an exclusive license to food uses of tagatose, has begun production at its first commercial facility, with a second plant on the drawing board. Levin's company, Spherix, will earn a 25 percent royalty on Arla net sales. And in Levin's mind, Slurpees are only the beginning. He wants tagatosein chocolate, cookies, and cakes - and in sugar bowls.

Levin's long, strange search for the ultimate sugar replacement started three decades ago, when he stumbled upon chiral chemistry, the well-established principle that complex molecules exist in "right-handed" and "left-handed" forms, known as enantiomers

There's an easy way to understand chirality. Hold out your hands, palms facing each other. Imagine that each hand is the chemical structure of a molecule. Most complex molecules are chiral. Like your hands, the two structures of chiral molecules - in sugars, they're referred to as D and L, from the Latin dexter and laevus - differ only in the arrangement of their elements. Put your hands together and they seem to match exactly. In the same way, the common sugar D-glucose is the mirror image of L-glucose, its rare counterpart. But put your hands down one on top of the other, both facing down, and you'll see that they're not identical at all; they're what chemists call non-superimposable.

Two enantiomers of a molecule will respond identically in a chemical reaction, but not so in biological systems. Proteins and cell receptors are designed to react only with particular enantiomers. For example, the enzymes in your stomach can digest only right-handed sugars. Just as a glove fits only on the proper hand, our bodies distinguish between the enantiomers of any given molecule.

Louis Pasteur discovered chirality in the 19th century. But the practical implications were few until the past 15 years, when the pharmaceutical industry began to exploit it. Previously, drugs were produced in a mixture of equal parts right-handed and left-handed enantiomers. The problem with such mixtures is that the correct enantiomer might cure a disease, but the wrong one could wreak havoc on the body. Such was the case with thalidomide in the 1960s. One version cured morning sickness during pregnancy; the other caused birth defects. By the late 1980s, researchers had improved methods of synthesizing single enantiomers, which led to a revolution in pharmaceuticals. Suddenly, drug companies could reduce dosages and avoid side effects. Today, chiral pharmaceuticals are a $147 billion business. Lipitor, Zoloft, and Paxil are all single-enantiomer drugs.

Neither chemist, biologist, nor businessman by training, Levin was introduced to chirality - and with it, the inspiration for tagatose - while taking a biochemistry class at Johns Hopkins University in the early '60s. For Levin, it was a third tour at Hopkins; he received a bachelor's in 1947 and a master's in sanitary engineering a year later. In the mid-'50s, while working for the Washington, DC, health department, he had an idea for a faster method of checking beaches and swimming pools for bacteria. He added radiation-laced nutrients to the water samples. If there were bacteria present, he figured, they'd eat the nutrients and give off radioactive CO2, detectable by a Geiger counter. The experiment worked, but it was never widely adopted. "Something about the word radioactive scared the bejesus out of people," he sighs.

It didn't scare NASA. Levin persuaded the agency to bring his test to Mars. On July 20, 1976, the Viking I lander touched down on the Red Planet to gather data about its atmosphere and surface - and to use Levin's invention to look for life. The lander would place Martian soil in a container with radiation-laced nutrients. If microbes were present, they - just like the swimming-pool bacteria - would eat the nutrients and release radioactive CO2. If radioactivity was detected, it could mean only one thing: life.

The results came back positive, stunning NASA researchers. The Viking heated the sample to kill any microbes and tested again as a control. By the parameters of the experiment, Levin discovered life. The problem was that two other life-detection experiments came up negative, as did a test for organic matter - a precursor to all known life. The official NASA line: Levin's test had been fooled by oxidants in the soil.

Levin still believes he discovered life on Mars. Twenty-seven years after his initial experiment, attitudes about the possibility of Martian life have changed. That doesn't mean anyone's admitting Levin was right, but he has become harder to dismiss outright. "I agree that his experiment found something very interesting," says Chris McKay, a Mars expert at NASA's Ames Research Center, who sides with the non-life camp. "We need to go and find out what it is. But I disagree that we can conclude already that it is life."

While the Mars experiment may be considered inconclusive at best, it led Levin to tagatose. Persuaded by NASA that he needed to improve his credentials, Levin returned to Johns Hopkins for his PhD in environmental engineering. That's where he learned that the body handles each type of molecule differently. It gave him an idea: If he could find a left-handed sugar, human enzymes wouldn't be able to process it. But would the substitutes still be as sweet as right-handed table sugar? A search of the literature turned up one paper examining L-glucose. The conclusion: bitter. Levin ordered some anyway and set up a taste panel at his new company, Spherix (née Biospherics). To his surprise, no one could tell the difference between the L and D versions. In 1981, Levin patented 10 left-handed sugars for use in foods and began looking for ways to make them. "We found several that were quite good," he says, "but we could never manufacture them cheaply enough."

For five years, Levin cycled through obvious candidates - L-sucrose, L-fructose - and found each too expensive to be viable. Finally, he decided to try L-tagatose, a rare left-handed sugar. When the maker accidentally sent him D-tagatose, he tested it. It was nearly as sweet as sugar, with similar baking and browning properties. By coincidence, D-tagatose is structurally similar to L-fructose, making it enough like a left-handed sugar that the small intestine absorbs only 20 to 25 percent of it. Translation: low-calorie. As it turns out, the perfect sugar Levin was searching for wasn't left-handed at all. But it took a lesson in chiral chemistry to find it.

Most crucially, the Spherix team devised an inexpensive way to make tagatose. Tiny quantities occur naturally in dairy products, and the process to derive it starts with whey, a byproduct of cheese-making. Lactose is extracted by removing proteins and then dissolved to form glucose and galactose. The glucose is sold off, and an enzyme is added to the galactose to form tagatose in bulk, either as syrup or crystals. Spherix patented the process in the late '80s.

Finding a way out of the lab and into the high-volume, low-margin food business proved daunting. Levin hustled for the money to build his own full-scale plant or find a partner, but talks with companies like Procter & Gamble fell through. Levin remembers the frustration. "They all told me, 'Once you've got the product developed and for sale, come back to us. We're not going to help you develop it,'" he says.

The longer it took him to produce tagatose, the more skeptical prospective customers became. Manfred Kroger, a professor emeritus at Penn State and an expert on low-calorie sweeteners, recalls, "People kept asking for samples, and Spherix said, 'We've only made one pound so far.' I thought the product was dead."

He wasn't the only one. Levin floundered for two decades trying to bring his discovery to market. Meanwhile, Spherix had to support his tagatose habit by expanding into a call-center business developed by Levin's wife, Karen. The company sets up operators to handle inquiries for government agencies and corporations. A handful of other Levin inventions never panned out. Today, Levin is seeking more than financial gain; he's looking for redemption. At the end of a 60-year career of near-misses, he hopes to finally silence skeptics in the scientific and business communities. "After all these false starts, as each year has gone by, it's like crying wolf," he says. "They're not going to believe it until they see it."

Levin whips out a set of keys, unlocks his desk, and rummages through a drawer. He pulls out a bag of tagatose-coated bran flakes and a chocolate bar, both creations of his Danish licensee. The bran is a little stale but sweet enough, and the chocolate tastes just like the real deal. He hands me a baggie of pure tagatose. I hold it up to the light, dab a little on my finger, and try it. A dead ringer for table sugar.

In a crowded sweetener market, it has to be. In addition to standbys like saccharin and aspartame, there are a handful of entrenched substitutes on store shelves - acesulfame potassium, stevia, and sugar alcohols like mannitol and sorbitol - used in myriad combinations to feed our ever growing appetite for diet food. The most troublesome competitor for tagatose is sucralose, sold as Splenda by McNeil Nutritionals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Sucralose is derived from sucrose through a process that replaces three hydroxyl atoms with chlorine, creating a crystal 600 times sweeter than sugar. Unlike saccharin and aspartame (but like tagatose), sucralose is heat-resistant, so you can bake with it. But it behaves differently than sugar. Foods sweetened with sucralose won't brown as well and they cook more quickly, so recipes may need to be adjusted. Splenda hit the market in 1998 and has since made its way into hundreds of big-name products (see chart, opposite page).

For Levin, the success of sucralose is a frustrating case of what might have been. He licensed tagatose to Arla in 1996, but it took five years for the Danes to obtain the FDA's "generally recognized as safe" status in the US - and then only as a food additive. It's taken another two years for Arla to build the first plant. (Arla obtained approval for tagatose in Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea this summer and expects Japan and Europe to follow.) And while Arla was seeking regulatory approval, sucralose came to market.

When tagatose finally hits the mainstream, it will offer distinct advantages over its competitors. It can be used as a one-to-one sugar replacement. It's safe for teeth, stimulates beneficial bacteria in the stomach, and has been shown to enhance flavor. And, as the only FDA-approved natural sugar substitute, tagatose avoids the anxiety about chemical derivatives. When studies in the 1970s showed that rats developed bladder tumors from consuming saccharin, the FDA proposed banning it, only to be overruled by Congress. Saccharin's stained image, though, has made it hard for other sweeteners to gain acceptance. The NutraSweet Web site's FAQ is devoted to answering charges that aspartame causes brain tumors, epileptic seizures, even weight gain.

Such public suspicion could give all-natural tagatose a huge marketing edge. The body might not distinguish between naturally and chemically derived food, but consumers do. Tagatose could hitch a ride on the same sentiments driving resistance to GM foods and the burgeoning infatuation with organics. The growing concern over obesity and diabetes could also fuel demand. A 1999 Spherix-funded study at the University of Maryland, published in Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism, showed that not only is tagatose safe for diabetics, it also blunts the rise in blood sugar from regular glucose consumption.

"It's going to go from a very minimal production rate to really starting to take over the market," says Paula Kalamaras, who coauthored a report on sweeteners for the Norwalk, Connecticut-based independent research firm Business Communications Company.

Levin isn't waiting around. In August, he traded in his CEO title to become Spherix's executive officer for science, leaving more time for his new gambit: commercializing tagatose, as Naturlose, for use in pharmaceuticals and toothpaste. Spherix is working with an unnamed university to manufacture samples that use sugar to sweeten a variety of medications. To convince the drug companies, Levin will unveil Spherix animal studies demonstrating any number of benefits that come with Naturlose: fertility enhancement (one study showed high pregnancy rates among tagatose-fed rats), biofilm prevention (tagatose breaks up films of bacteria that form on teeth and medical instruments), and even anemia treatment (tagatose enhances key blood factors critical to fighting the disease). In May, Spherix also patented a technology to utilize the chiral nature of perfumes. Levin's idea is to replace natural isomers of fragrance molecules - which lose their effectiveness when they are eaten by bacteria on the skin - with their mirror-image synthetic counterparts.

"My dad is one of these people who would very much like to be respected for his scientific achievements," says Levin's son Ron, an MIT radar systems engineer. "Many people have invested in him and tagatose, and many people have been waiting a long time for it to be developed, so he is very much motivated to bring the investors through to success."

But it may take more than motivation. Spherix and Arla are tied up in arbitration over the tagatose license contract. The patent on tagatose as an additive expires in 2006, the two patents on production methods a few years later. Levin hopes to see his sugar substitute flood the market before then. And two new NASA rovers slated to land on Mars in January could show that Levin was right all along. Talk about sweet vindication.


Contributing editor Evan Ratliff ( wrote about China's Green Great Wall in Wired 11.04.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003


Diet drink discovers missing ingredient

Jane E. Allen - Los Angeles Times

A new, low-calorie sweetener is making its U.S. debut in a diet frozen cola drink, but it may not be long before you find it in breakfast cereals, brownies, ice cream and candies.

The commercial launch of tagatose, which has 92 percent of the sweetness of table sugar, came with the introduction of 7-Eleven's Diet Pepsi Slurpee. For years the convenience store chain had tried to create a no-calorie version of its popular drink, but those efforts had failed either the taste test or the consistency test.

Combined with two other sugar substitutes, erythritol and sucralose (Splenda), tagatose makes the frozen drink taste more like the original. A naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products and sold under the brand name Naturlose, tagatose is made from whey, a byproduct of cheese-making. It's a bulk sweetener like saccharin and Splenda, but those and other artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. Tagatose spoons and measures just like sugar.

The sweetener withstands the heat of baking, dissolves like regular sugar and remains stable when exposed to air. Because it doesn't raise levels of blood sugar or insulin, it can be used by diabetics. Furthermore, it's a flavor enhancer that reduces bitter aftertastes of other sugar substitutes.

"It offers the potential to be a good-tasting sweetener that can readily be used in recipes," said Dr. Anne Peters Harmel, a diabetes specialist at the University of Southern California, noting how difficult it is to cook with sugar substitutes. "This will be easier."

Tagatose was developed by Spherix Inc., a bioengineering firm in Beltsville, Md., which licensed the rights for use in food and beverages to Arla Foods, a Danish dairy producer. Although Arla wasn't required to seek FDA approval to market tagatose in food, company officials provided the agency in 2001 "with scientific data supporting their conclusion that tagatose is safe," said Linda Kahl, an FDA consumer safety officer.

Like several other sugar substitutes, tagatose is partly absorbed in the small intestine; some of it breaks down in the large intestine.

In large amounts, it can cause bloating, gas, nausea and diarrhea. But at the doses most people might consume in a day, tagatose shouldn't cause a big problem, Kahl said.

People sensitive to dairy products can eat the product, said Gilbert Levin, Spherix's executive officer for science. "It's a simple sugar very similar in structure and size to fructose."

Spherix has sponsored research at the University of Maryland into the potential use of tagatose as a Type 2 diabetes treatment.

Very small studies have shown that taking tagatose regularly lowers levels of glycohemoglobin, an indicator of how well diabetics keep their blood sugar under control.


GaioŽtagatose in a Diet Pepsi flavored SlurpeeŽ

Only a few months following the commercial introduction in the US market of the new functional sweetener GaioŽtagatose, a Diet Pepsi flavored SlurpeeŽ has been launched using GaioŽtagatose's unique flavour enhancing effect in combination with high intensive sweeteners. Enabling a "regular taste" in a diet beverage GaioŽtagatose is providing an exciting opportunity to develop the growing healthy diet market.

Arla Foods Ingredients has the exclusive world wide rights to produce and commercialize GaioŽtagatose. The first commercial production was announced in May 2003 based on a co-operation with Nordzucker, producing the product. This co-operation has now lead to a 50/50 Joint Venture company, named SweetGredients, subject to EU regulatory approval.

SweetGredients is the only world wide commercial supply source of GaioŽtagatose using the combined capabilities of Arla Foods Ingredients and Nordzucker. The product is being distributed in the US, by Arla Foods Ingredients located in New Jersey.

The healthy effects of GaioŽtagatose are ideal for functional products with claims in relation to a reduced caloric content, toothfriendly properties and prebiotic effects. Also, GaioŽtagatose has no glycemic response and is therefore ideal for inclusion in the rapidly growing “low-carb” market. The healthy effects can be exploited in a wide variety of food products, ranging from cereals to health bars and confectionery.

The flavor enhancing effects of GaioŽtagatose, which is driving the launch of the Diet Pepsi flavored SlurpeeŽ, can be used to improve the flavor of diet products, such as beverages, table top sweeteners and confectionery. Not only does GaioŽtagatose improve the taste profile of high intensity sweeteners, it also enhances toffee and mint flavor and prolongs the sweetness delivery in chewing gum. As an additional benefit GaioŽtagatose browns easily due to the Maillard reaction and adds colour to various confectionery and bakery applications.

GaioŽtagatose is approved for use in foods and beverages in the US and in Korea. Approval procedures are well under way in Australia and New Zealand. An approval is expected by the end of the year. In Japan, an approval is expected next year, while in South America approval procedures are in the initial phase.

The Diet Pepsi flavored SlurpeeŽ: 7-ElevenŽ has just announced a national launch of the Diet Pepsi flavored SlurpeeŽ. The new Slurpee drink is available at participating 7-elevenŽ stores in the United States. GaioŽtagatose is used as a flavour enhancer improving the regular taste of the diet product. The sweeteners used are GaioŽtagatose, Erythritol and intense sweeteners, where the use of GaioŽtagatose and Erythritol in combination provides bulk and prevents the drink from turning into a block of ice. The new product addresses a growing appetite among consumers wanting to cut down on calories for weight or health reasons.