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Report: Techniques for reducing sugar content in dairy products show promise

Dairy foods are popular among consumers, and sales gross more than $125 billion per year (IDFA, 2017). With dairy product popularity comes new demands from consumers for healthier, low-calorie products that taste the same as their higher calorie counterparts. In a report published in the Journal of Dairy Science researchers review the options available to the dairy industry to reduce sugar in products such as ice cream, yogurt, and flavored milk without sacrificing flavor.

The public health and consumer focus on health has increased in the past 20 years, leading to a significant push for healthier food choices including dairy products. Overconsumption of sugar, for example, can contribute to a host of issues such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dental cavities.

“Dairy foods represent a large market,” explained lead investigator MaryAnne Drake, PhD, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor, Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences, Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA. “The dilemma of how to reduce sugar content without sacrificing flavor and negatively affecting product sales is challenging, as sugar plays an important role in dairy foods, not only in flavor, but also in texture, color, and viscosity. Replacing sugar can have negative effects, making substitution inherently difficult.”

Dairy products like ice cream, yogurt, and flavored milk are potentially high in unwanted added sugar. Some of the standard processes for developing healthier food products, such as fat, sugar, and salt reduction, result in an unacceptable flavor. Sweet taste perception can also be affected by texture of the food matrix and the presence of fat. Other sugar reduction techniques include hydrolysis of lactose, ultrafiltration, and direct reduction. In this review, researchers review recent studies to assess the role of sugar, alternative sweeteners, and sugar reduction in ice cream, yogurt, and flavored milk and discuss the options available to the dairy industry.

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