Public perception that sugar contributes to obesity, diabetes and other preventable “civilization diseases” has led to introduction of many alternative sweeteners. Although the physiological effects of some are questionable, most of these alternative sweeteners that usually sell at a premium have low calorific value. In this context, it was proposed to investigate whether any of the “specialty” sugars produced in Mauritius could have a low glycemic index (GI) value and whether they possessed any additional nutritional characteristics beneficial to consumers. Additionally, a process was developed for the extraction and isolation of active antioxidant compounds from cane juice and the isolated compounds were used to enhance the physiological and nutritional value of refined sugar.
This project characterized some 23 special sugars and other byproducts in terms of the natural components that are usually associated with beneficial nutritional properties of functional foods. The results of this research demonstrated that a number of Mauritian special sugars have high antioxidant properties, that are beneficial to consumers. Blending of the concentrated antioxidant extract from cane juice with white refined sugar decreased the GI status of refined sugar from “medium” to “low” GI.