The Future Of Sweet Might Just Be A Protein Called Brazzein

Brazzein is a protein that comes from the fruit of a tropical West African plant called oubli, more formally known as Pentadiplandra brazzeana. Natives and wildlife have consumed oubli fruit on the regular for as long as they've been around, but since Western scientists rediscovered the fruit in the mid-'80s, it's drawn considerable attention for its protein-based sweetness.

In the decades after brazzein was isolated in 1994, though, it's proven difficult to produce enough of the stuff to make it available on a commercial scale. Gotta get those dollars, right? Beyond the profit motive is a health interest; a calorie-free, natural sweetener could be a godsend for people with diabetes, and any way to reduce the Western reliance on refined sugars may help alleviate the costs associated with diseases like obesity.

That may have just changed: Scientists have just figured out how to churn out a much higher yield of brazzein using yeast, which means it's one step closer to your kitchen table.

The process of producing and extracting brazzein is one of the major downfalls of the sweetener. Being difficult to extract and produce means that those costs are going to be passed down to the consumer, and the challenges of production have already burned one company that thought it had nearly had a product ready for market two years ago.

There's good news, though. The recent discovery makes production much more efficient, and brazzein typically tests around 2,000 times more sweet than regular old sugar, meaning you have to use far less to have the same happy effects. On top of that, MB Group USA claims its brazzein-based zero-calorie sweetener, called MiraSweet, is "coming soon," though if you're really desperate you could ask for a chance to buy some ahead of schedule.