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A sweet taste of success to drink in.

Another low-calorie synthetic sweetener has been developed that its creators say not only tastes like sugar -- with no bitterness or aftertaste -- but also does not promote tooth decay. Chemically similar to the widely used synthetic sweetener aspartame, this new compound appears to overcome a major drawback associated with aspartame -- its short shelf life in liquids such as soft drinks. Herbert Seltzman of Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in Research Triangle Park, N.C., will formally unveil the new compound April 29 at the American Chemical Society's national meeting in Miami.

For convenience, the new sweetener, DL-amino malonyl-D-alanine isopropyl ester, has been designated RTI-001. The result of a National Institute of Dental Research porgram to identify promising new non-cavity-producing sweeteners, it must still nundergo years of further toxicity and development testing before any decision on its commercial potential is resolved.

To taste sweet, a chemical must fit into three receptor sites on a taste bud: a hydrogen-bond-donor binding site, hydrogen-bond-acceptor binding site, and a hydrophobic binding site. (Hydrophobic sites interact with chemical groups that do not easily dissolve in water.) There are physical constraints too. The sweetener's binding sites have to be a particular distance apart, properly oriented and composed of chemical groups that are the right size. Of the many candidates RTI right size. Of the many candidates RTI found that seemed to meet these rules, only 001 proved sweet.

So far 001 has gotten a clean bill of health from the Ames bacterial test (to gauge mutagenicity, and hence carcinogenicity), and several mouse toxicity assays. Moreover, it does not contain phenylalanine. The fact that aspartame does has not only fueled controversy over that sweetener's potential for affecting moods and behavior (SN: 8/27/83, p. 134) but also put it off limits to persons with phenylketonuria (an inherited inability to dispose of phenylalanine).

Still, 001's major advantage over aspartame is likely to be its stability in liquids. RTI's tests showed that within 36 days at 77 degrees F, half of the aspartame that had been dissolved in water with an acidity characteristic of soft drinks had broken down. "Yet," Seltzman notes, "there was no appreciable decomposition of our compound." Though temperature stability tests have not been done, Seltzman suspects that, like aspartame, 001 would not hold up in cooking, even though "it should be more stable than aspartame in hot drinks, like coffee."
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Title Annotation:new synthetic sweetener called RTI-001
Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 27, 1985
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