Scientists: artificial sweetener proved to be a powerful pesticide

© Fotolia / Brent HofackerГазированный drinkScientists: artificial sweetener proved to be a powerful pesticide© Fotolia / Brent Hofacker

. Artificial sweetener erythritol is widely used today in the production of carbonated beverages, has proven to be a powerful pesticide and «contraceptive» for fruit flies and other insects, according to a paper published in the Journal of Applied Entomology.

«Many of the measures for combating insects are focused on suppressing their ability to reproduce, and not killing themselves adults. Erythritol can be used as a pesticide in many different ways – and to deal with adults, and egg laying, and larvae or all of these at the same time,» says Sean O’donnell (Sean O’donnell) from Drexel University in Philadelphia (USA).

Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are now widely used in the food industry to lower prices for food and reduce their calorie when you create a «diet» beverages and food. In recent years, some scientists began to study the side effects from the use of sweeteners, fixing them with the development of cancer, diabetes, obesity and several other diseases.

Other scholars, on the contrary, claim that such effects really exist and that the sweeteners or not affect people’s health, or have beneficial effects with moderate consumption. The General consensus on their role in human life yet, and physicians continue the controversy surrounding artificial sweeteners and explore their properties.

O’donnell revealed an unexpected useful property of erythritol, one of these sweeteners, studying the results of early experiments aimed at assessing its safety for human. As a rule, such experiments as the scientists tell, is initially conducted on insects and mice, and only then if they are successful, start testing them on volunteers.

Studying the results of the experiments concerning the safety of erythritol, the researchers drew attention to the fact that this sweetener killed the fruit flies, even in relatively small concentrations, but was not toxic to mice and humans. This gave them the idea that this substance can be used as a pesticide, safer for humans than other insecticides, can cause severe poisoning or cancer.

They tested this idea by tracing over whether erythritol to destroy not only the adult flies and their larvae, markedly different in their anatomy and metabolism from Mature individuals. To do this, scientists planted several clutches of eggs to pieces of this sugar substitute and followed the growth of the larvae of flies.

The experiment showed that erythritol does not kill the eggs of fruit flies by contact, but he quickly destroys the larvae, after hatching, if they started eating food with enough of this «sugar». Not a single insect of these clutches did not survive to pupation, on average, after just 1.5 days after hatching. Similar results, as the researchers note, have been obtained in experiments on other insects.

Small doses of this substance, as scientists have discovered, in a strange way act on adult flies. They do not kill, but temporarily sterilized them, effectively becoming the equivalent of contraceptives used today to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Accordingly, the spraying of small amounts of this artificial sugar on the planting of fruits and vegetables can protect them from the attacks of caterpillar pests, while not destroying important pollinators, many of whom are adults of these insects.