I was reading the South Beach Diet book the other night (never mind why!) and noticed that the author recommends (without giving an explicit brand name) an artificial sweetener derived from sugar. A friend on the diet will only use sucralose, saying that the only one that "works right" with the diet. (The SB book itself says it doesn't matter, it's just personal preference.) A recent ad campaign claims, "Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar". As a chemist, I read this and cringe!
Sucralose is made by chlorinating sugar, that is replacing 3 of the 8 hydroxyl (OH) groups with chlorine atoms. [Ed: Yes, I know, chlorine gas, Cl2 is poisonous, but this doens't mean that anything contains a chlorine atom is a poison, despite the claims here. But that's another post!] Such a substitution can utterly change the properties of the molecule, including it's taste. For example, replacing the OH group on ethanol (the alcohol we drink) produces an effective refrigerant (it's used as a local anesthetic, in fact), but not a good drink! An even smaller change, the inverting of two groups on the molecule that makes up spearmint oil, changes it into caraway oil (and you certainly would never say that mint tea tastes like rye bread). Bottom line, there is no reason that any given derivative of sugar will taste anything like sugar!
Much is actually known about the molecular characteristics necessary for sweetness.
13 hours ago in Variety of Life