Xylitol – A Natural Artificial Sweetener

Food, Health
Most of us are familiar with xylitol because the label on our chewing gum boasts it is sugar-free¹, using xylitol in its place. This so-called artificial sweetener is prepared industrially by the catalytic hydrogenation of xylose. Xylose itself is a sugar. It may be isolated from wood. Xylitol is not decomposed in the mouth by bacteria. It is not well-absorbed in the small intestine. Hence, it is less of a threat to the diabetic and does not add to the dentist's paycheck. In the Mouth [caption id="attachment_26073" align="alignright" width="238"] Streptococcus mutans[/caption] In a person's mouth, Streptococcus mutans bacteria consumes reactive sugar (usually sucrose or table sugar), releasing in its place, carboxylic acids. Over time, the acid environment damages teeth. Xylitol is not a reactive sugar, meaning the acids are not…
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Can Eating the Meat of a Rabid Animal Give You Rabies?

animals, Food
[caption id="attachment_25951" align="alignright" width="480"] Image by Scientific Animations CC BY-SA4.0[/caption] We're told to cook our chicken through to the bone to avoid salmonella. Then too, there is trichinosis. And there are others. However, salmonella and trichinosis pose no problem if, as we mentioned, we cook our food thoroughly. But there are other issues with food that are not so easily solved. For instance, there is the so-called "mad cow disease". You can cook the beef as much as you want and it still is dangerous! Mad cow disease is more officially known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE. Most of Us At least in the U.S., most of us probably get the bulk of our food from three sources: 1. Grocery store 2. Garden 3. Farmer's market A fair number…
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Artificial Butter Flavor – Just a Product of the Chem Lab?

Chemistry, Food
You are crunching away at some tasty munchable. Since you're not doing anything else and would like to prove you can do two things at once, you turn the bag/box around and read the ingredients. Yes, yes, oh that! And yes, yes, ah. What's that? Artificial Butter Flavor? What's artificial butter, the product of artificial cows? What Is Artificial Butter Flavor? Simply put, the expression "artificial butter" refers to taste and use, rather than to any single, particular ingredient. A Simple Compound Diacetyl is considered to impart a buttery flavor to foodstuffs. As the illustration shows, diacetyl is a small, simple molecule. Writing it out in full, it is... CH3(CO)(CO)CH3 Note the similarity to two acetic acid (vinegar) molecules... CH3(CO)–OH + HO–(OC)CH3 [sc name="MidArticleAdsense"] Synthesis The second image depicts one…
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Algae, Seafood and Domoic Acid: Should You Be Concerned?

Food, Health
[caption id="attachment_24898" align="alignright" width="480"] Steamed mussels - yum![/caption] You are aware that an asp is a poisonous serpent or snake. Cleopatra died from the poison of an asp. But there is another kind of "asp". This kind is an acronym for Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning. What's that? Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning As its name implies, amnesic shellfish poisoning is a marine-related illness. It results from consuming domoic acid, an organic acid neurotoxin produced by algae. The algae is eaten by such marine creatures as shellfish, sardines and anchovies. It is theorized a major factor in the increase of such poisonings due to a corresponding increase in algal blooms, apparently fueled by climate change. One recently discovered important source of toxic algal blooms is the phytoplankton pseudo-nitzschia. How Serious a Problem? The algae…
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Heavy Cream and Whipping Cream: What’s the Difference?

Food, Health
You shop often at your local grocery store, and you're pretty well acquainted with what they carry. Even if it threw you for a loop at first, you learned the difference between baking soda and baking powder. In time, you even learned what gefilte fish was! Your grocery list today includes cream for use in a dessert topping. You head to the dairy section and see assorted cartons of milk, half and half, light cream, and... heavy cream and whipping cream. Hmm. Which one do you buy What's the difference between them? Both Work Generally speaking, both whipping cream and heavy cream will achieve the desired result. In fact, some brands have taken to more specific labeling to better identify what they are. Some companies have chosen to say their…
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The Main Component of Super Hot Peppers is Related to Vanilla

Chemistry, Food
[caption id="attachment_24231" align="alignright" width="480"] Not hot enough for some people...[/caption] Spicy hot peppers can provide culinary delight, or gastronomical torture for those with sensitive stomachs. So what is it – from a chemistry perspective – that makes those hot peppers so hot? Hot Peppers Contain Capsaicin For simplicity’s sake, we’ll limit the scope of this article to a single hot pepper constituent: capsaicin (IUPAC chemical name, (E)-N-[(4-Hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)methyl]-8-methylnon-6-enamide). Scientists assign capsaicin in pure form a Scoville heat value of 16,000,000. The Scoville value is subjective. Raters determine heat by means of tasting increasing dilution of pepper solutions. The jalapeño pepper, for example, possesses a Scoville rating of up to 4,000, while a habanero pepper rates at about a 250,000 on the scale. [caption id="attachment_24242" align="alignleft" width="280"] The relatively mild jalapeño pepper.[/caption]…
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The Conversion of Cane Juice to Sugar: a Chemical or Physical Change?

Chemistry, Food
[caption id="attachment_24130" align="alignright" width="480"] Harvested sugarcane.[/caption] One of our readers asks, “So, is the crystallization process of cane juice to raw sugar considered a chemical change or a physical change? Why one or the other?” Let’s discuss, starting with an explanation of what constitutes a chemical change. What is a Chemical Change? A chemical compound consists of atoms bonded together in specific fashion to form molecules. When you modify the combination of atoms, you’ve achieved a chemical change. For instance, combine sodium hydroxide with hydrochloric acid, and the result is sodium chloride (table salt) and water, according to the reaction: NaOH + HCl → NaCl + H₂O This example clearly represents a chemical change. Salt (NaCl) is edible, sodium hydroxide or lye (NaOH) is not. Water (H₂O) is safe for…
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Store-Bought Potatoes Treated with Eye-Growth Inhibitor

Food, Health
[caption id="attachment_23951" align="alignright" width="480"] Would you purchase potatoes full of eyes? Image by ostephy[/caption] Probably, you pick up a can of food to read the label. You may wish to see what the ingredients are. You are either satisfied or not, so you either put the can in your cart, or back on the shelf. Sometimes though, there is no list of ingredients. Like when you buy an apple. If the apple is very shiny, you probably suspect the apple has been waxed. But there are times when you cannot visibly determine what has been applied to a food item. Such is the case when you purchase a potato. Are you aware that after harvesting, the potatoes were given a chemical spray? After all, the potatoes may be in storage…
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Is Eating Beef Liver Bad for You? Or is That an “Old Scientist’s” Tale?

Food, Health
[caption id="attachment_23806" align="alignright" width="480"] Fried beef liver. Image courtesy of Lani Cooks, all rights reserved, used with permission.[/caption] “And in this corner…” so starts the boxing match. But, what does that have to do with liver? It illustrates people’s feelings about fried liver. They migrate to one corner or the other in a food boxing match. They love it or they hate it. What’s the chemistry of liver – and how does it impact your health? For liver to have any effect at all, you have to actually take a bite – so let’s first consider some of the typical statements people make about this food. First, let's consider those people who stick up their nose at the mere mention of fried beef liver. Those Who Stick Up Their Nose…
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How Many Different Kinds of Water – Water Isotopes – are In Your Glass?

Food, Health
[caption id="attachment_23779" align="alignright" width="480"] Water. Just water. Image by Rollingroscoe.[/caption] The woman of the house comes out of her garden. Having worked for hours, she has a “powerful” thirst that only a glass of water can quench. She opens the freezer door, clinks a few cubes of ice into her glass, and then turns to the sink and fills the voids between the cubes with pure water from the tap. Water consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom – H₂O. At first thought, it would seem there should only be one kind of water. This is not accurate, however. That is so because there are isotopes of both hydrogen and oxygen. To understand what an isotope is, it is important to realize that the number of protons in…
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