The Next Fake Sugar Is Made From Sand

Photographed by Winnie Au.
Aspartames and Stevias of the world, step aside. The latest artificial sweetener isn't actually artificial at all: It's an edited version of sugar with a hi-tech inner core. Israeli startup company DouxMatok has invented a process of coating food-safe nanoparticles of cellulose or silica (i.e.: what beach sand is made of) with real sugar. The company has found a way to replicate the same sweet, familiar taste we know and love — with the added benefit of "cutting sugar by 25% to 55%," reports Fast Company. If you want to see the real cost of our sweet tooth-fueled risky behaviors, look no further than Damon Gameau. An Australian director, Gameau acted as his own test subject in That Sugar Film. For his film, Gameau voluntarily consumed 40 teaspoons of the stuff every day for two months to demonstrate what sugar does to the body. The results were staggering: He experienced approximately 20 pounds of weight gain along with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cirrhosis. That's why we're so interested in this newfangled sugar-like invention intent on making sugar less of a villain. What makes DouxMatok's version of sugar different and healthier is its inclusion of food-safe nanoparticles. Nanoparticles, in short, are nanometer-sized (read: tiny!) particles that behave as one unit. And the ones in question here — silica and cellulose — aren't a concern. They simply pass through the body, rather than getting absorbed. Replacing some sugar content using these particles may curb some of the not-so-great health effects of our often sugar-heavy diets. But that means it may take some getting used to: "When you eat something twice as sweet, you can wind up overstimulating your taste buds and increasing your sweetness threshold," says Shira Lenchewski, MS, RD. "So this [invention] may cut down on sugar in the short-term at the cost of a serious sweet tooth." "I think 'food-safe nanoparticles' is going to arouse a lot of mistrust and scorn," Monica Reinagel, RN, LN, cautions us. "Those fears may (or may not) be misplaced, but in a time when we suspect every compound with a name we can't pronounce of being toxic, the facts are likely to be drowned out by science-phobic fear-mongers." But when all that's left behind in the body is a small amount of sugar coating — significantly less than the aftermath of traditional sugar — it's hard to focus on fear. Instead, we'll be focusing on the ginormous scoops of gelato, gooey brownies, and Funetti cakes that may soon come with the possibility of being half as unhealthy.

More from Diet & Nutrition

R29 Original Series