Neohesperidin dihydrochalcone


Neohesperidin dihydrochalcone – also known as Neohesperidin DHC, Neo-DHC, & NHDC – is a non-nutritive sweetener and artificial sweetener approved for use in the European Union, but not approved by the FDA – meaning it can’t be used in the United States. The E number – which is used in the EU – is E959. The name neohesperidin dihydrochalcone comes from the chemical treatment of neohesperidin, found in orange, grapefruit, and other citrus fruit peel and pulp. NHDC was “discovered in the 1960s as part of a United States Department of Agriculture research program to find methods for minimizing the taste of bitter flavorants in citrus juices.” [1] The exact year of discovery is 1963. [3]

citrus fruit list

After its discovery, NHDC was not widely accepted by the Food Industry because of inadequate applications and uses. [3] NHDC would then be approved for use as a sweetener in the European Union in 1994. “It is sometimes said that NHDC is considered a Generally Recognized as Safe flavour enhancer by the Flavour and Extract Manufacturers’ Association, which is a trade group with no legal standing.” [1] NHDC is used mainly to sweeten diet and low-calorie food. [3]

The chemical compounds found in citrus fruits that are bitter, besides neohesperidin, include limonin and naringin. The idea is to find a way to mask the taste of all the compounds, and chemically treating neohesperidin is one way to do it. Treating naringin also exists as naringin dihydrochalcone – discovered at the same time as NHDC. The treatment of neohesperidin is as follows:

When treated with potassium hydroxide or another strong base, and then catalytically hydrogenated, it becomes NHDC, a compound roughly 1500-1800 times sweeter than sugar at threshold concentrations; around 340 times sweeter than sugar weight-for-weight. Its potency is naturally affected by such factors as the application it is used for, and the pH of the product. [1]

Chemical structure of neohesperidin dihydrochalcone (neo-DHC)

However, more research shows that finding the sweetness ratio between NHDC and sucrose is harder than with other sweeteners. “Due to differences in the shapes of the psychophysical functions, the obtained ratios are by no means similar for different concentrations of sucrose. So, values mentioned in the literature may vary between 1000 (Horowitz and Gentili, 1986) and 2000 (Schwarzenbach, 1976). At the sweetness threshold even more extreme ratios may be found.” [2]

Furthermore, the taste and stability of NHDC are as follows:

NHDC’s sweet taste has a slower onset than sugar’s and lingers in the mouth for some time. Unlike aspartame, NHDC is stable to elevated temperatures and to acidic or basic conditions, and so can be used in applications that require a long shelf life. NHDC itself can stay foodsafe for up to five years when stored in optimal conditions. [1]

This means NHDC doesn’t have the same sweetness sugar does, but it can leave a consumer tasting a desired sweetness for longer. The stability and shelf-life means a more diverse amount of products can be enhanced with NHDC. Here are more uses for NHDC:

It is noted particularly for enhancing sensory effects (known in the industry as ‘mouth feel.’) An example of this is ‘creaminess’ in dairy foods such as yogurt and ice cream but is also widely favoured for use in otherwise naturally bitter products. Pharmaceutical companies are fond of the product as a means of reducing the bitterness of pharmacological drugs in tablet form and it has been used for livestock feed as a means of reducing feeding time. Other products NHDC can be found in may include a wide variety of alcoholic beverages (and non-alcoholic), savoury foods, toothpaste, mouthwash and condiments such as ketchup and mayonnaise. [1]

One of the stated benefits of NHDC is it’s ability to have a synergistic effect. “Besides its properties as an intensive sweetener, it is maintained that NHDC is a taste enhancer in combination with other sweeteners, such as saccharin (Kiyofumi et al., 1972), cyclamate (Inglet et al., 1969) and acesulfame-K (Von Rymon Lipinski and Lück, 19761979). Such effects have also been described for combinations of NHDC with sucrose (Beerens, 1981) and with sugar alcohols (Dwivedi and Sampathkumar, 1981).” [2] But, this doesn’t seem to be the case after experiments were carried out. “It may be concluded from the results of the experiments that there is no sign whatsoever of a taste enhancing property of NHDC in sucrose solutions. NHDC does not enhance perceived intensity more than a subjectively equal control solution.” [2]

Although the synergistic effect doesn’t seem present from the previous study, NHDC is still used in combination with other sweeteners due to its high level of sweetness. This allows a cost benefit, as less sweetener is required to sweeten products.

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One comment

  1. Hi,Steve,

    Thank you for your informative knowledge on NHDC. It is a great idea to focus on sweetner ingredients, and believe there is no second guy like you.

    Keep posting, and wait for more good articles.

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