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Tricking the Sweet Tooth

February 26, 2013

Understanding the chemical composition of tomatoes could help manufacturers decrease the sugar content of processed foods.



Sweeter without sugar. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers have discovered that one variety of tomato can taste twice as sweet as another variety, even if they both contain the same amount of sugar. University of Florida plant biologist Harry Klee explains that a combination of sugar, which we taste, and volatile organic compounds – which we smell, affect our perception of sweetness.

HARRY KLEE (University of Florida, Gainesville):

And the two amplify each other in such way that you can make things taste far sweeter than the amount of sugar would say they should be.


He says this could have big implications for the food industry. For instance, with the right amount of volatile compounds, juice manufacturers could remove sugars from their product without sacrificing sweetness.


In theory you could take away a significant proportion of the calories and people would still think the stuff tasted just as sweet as it did before.


I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society. 

Different varieties of heirloom tomatoes have different levels of sugar and volatile organic compounds. (mercedesfromtheeighties/Flickr)