Neohesperidin DC—guide to artificial sweeteners

In the 1960s, chemists discovered a new substance up to 3,000 times sweeter than sugar. It was approved as a sweetener in the 1990s by the EU. But it's not as a sweetener that it has garnered the most appreciation, but as a taste enhancer. Or should we say "taste concealer"? Neohesperidin DC is an unknown veteran with many uses.

27 October 2022 •

Our guide to arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers has come to neo­hes­peridin dihy­drochal­cone, often abbre­vi­at­ed neo­hes­peridin DC or just NHDC. It is an expert at mask­ing bit­ter flavours. Especially from sub­stances found in cit­rus fruits, from which it is also derived. In the EU, it has been approved as a sweet­en­er (E 959) since 1994. The ques­tion is: Does it get approved by you?

What is neohesperidin DC?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under­took a research pro­gramme in the ear­ly 1960s to reduce the bit­ter taste of lemon juice. One of these bit­ter flavour­ings is neo­hes­peridin (with­out the DC at the end).

The researchers dis­cov­ered that the bit­ter taste dis­ap­peared if neo­hes­peridin mixed with caus­tic potash (potas­si­um hydrox­ide) was exposed to hydro­gen gas under high pres­sure and in the pres­ence of met­al (hydro­gena­tion). The result is called neo­hes­peridin DC (note the DC at the end).

Not only does the bit­ter­ness of neo­hes­peridin dis­ap­pear in neo­hes­peridin DC. The sub­stance proved to be good at mask­ing the bit­ter­ness of oth­er sub­stances. In addi­tion, neo­hes­peridin DC tastes sweet and has oth­er inter­est­ing properties.

Neohesperidin dihy­drochal­cone (neo­hes­peridin DC).

How is neohesperidin DC made?

Neohesperidin DC is not found in nature. It is pro­duced chem­i­cal­ly from neo­hes­peridin (with­out DC at the end), extract­ed from bit­ter orange or cre­at­ed by chem­i­cal­ly con­vert­ing naringin found in grape­fruit. The process con­sists of five steps:

  1. Neohesperidin and potas­si­um hydrox­ide are dis­solved in water.
  2. In the pres­ence of a met­al, hydro­gen is added to the mix­ture under high pres­sure. The met­al, often pal­la­di­um, acts as a land­ing site where neo­hes­peridin, potas­si­um hydrox­ide and hydro­gen com­bine to become neo­hes­peridin dihydrochalcone—i.e. neo­hes­peridin DC. None of the met­al is car­ried along; it’s just a catalyst.
  3. The strong­ly basic mix­ture is neu­tralised with sul­phuric acid.
  4. The mix­ture is heat­ed to form crys­tals. These crys­tals are not pure; they con­tain par­ti­cles and microor­gan­isms. They are there­fore dis­solved in hot water, fil­tered and then heat­ed to form crys­tals of pur­er neo­hes­peridin DC. This is called recrys­talli­sa­tion and is repeat­ed until the crys­tals con­sist of at least 96 % neo­hes­peridin DC.
  5. The thus extract­ed and puri­fied Neohesperidin DC crys­tals are then dried, ground and packaged.
Bitter orange (cit­rus auran­tium). A bit­ter cit­rus fruit from which neo­hes­peridin is extract­ed for the pro­duc­tion of the sweet­en­er neo­hes­peridin dihy­drochal­cone (neo­hes­peridin DC).


Som, neo­hes­peridin DC is good at mask­ing bitterness—especially from cit­rus fruits. It was for this par­tic­u­lar appli­ca­tion that the sub­stance was first pro­duced. Today it is also used to mask bit­ter­ness in med­i­cine and ani­mal feed.

It is also sweet—up to 3,000 times sweet­er than ordi­nary sug­ar. But how sweet it is per­ceived depends on the amount. It is “only” 400–600 times sweet­er than sug­ar in prac­ti­cal use.

It also makes oth­er sweet sub­stances taste even sweet­er. Neohesperidin DC has this syn­er­gis­tic effect on sac­cha­rin, aspar­tame, cycla­mates, sucralose, ace­sul­fame K and sug­ar alco­hols. This means that less of these sweet­en­ers are need­ed to achieve the same sweetness.

It’s not just sweet­ness that is enhanced by neo­hes­peridin DC, but also oth­er flavours and the mouth­feel. For exam­ple, it can be added to dairy prod­ucts, such as yoghurt and ice cream, to enhance the mouth­feel of ‘creami­ness.’

Neohesperidin DC may be used in a wide range of foods such as soft drinks, desserts, ice cream, con­fec­tionery, cer­tain pas­tries, fruit and veg­etable prepa­ra­tions, high-fibre break­fast cere­als, jams, mar­malades, jel­lies, cer­tain soups, vit­a­min or min­er­al sup­ple­ments, sauces, cer­tain snacks, alco­holic bev­er­ages and low alco­holic beverages.

Other properties

In addi­tion to mask­ing bit­ter­ness, tast­ing sweet, enhanc­ing flavour and improv­ing mouth­feel, neo­hes­peridin DC has some oth­er inter­est­ing properties.

  • It is heat resistant.
  • It has a long shelf life.
  • It is sta­ble in both acidic and alka­line environments.

All are favourable prop­er­ties. But com­pared to reg­u­lar sug­ar, it has some prop­er­ties that can be pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive depend­ing on the application:

  • It takes time before the sweet­ness is felt in the mouth.
  • The feel­ing of sweet­ness lingers longer.
  • It has a menthol/​liquorice aftertaste.

And, of course, neo­hes­peridin DC pro­vides no ener­gy (0 kcal), has no effect on blood sug­ar lev­els (GI = 0) and does not cause caries.

Is there noth­ing neg­a­tive to say? There is. Food work­ers report expe­ri­enc­ing nau­sea and migraines after high expo­sure to neo­hes­peridin DC. Thus, face masks are essen­tial when han­dling neo­hes­peridin DC.

What happens to neohesperidin DC in the body?

Neohesperidin DC is struc­tural­ly sim­i­lar to flavonoids—antioxidants that give fruits, berries and veg­eta­bles their colour, among oth­er things. Therefore, neo­hes­peridin DC fol­lows the same path­way in the body as flavonoids.

Most of it pass­es unaf­fect­ed through the diges­tive sys­tem until it reach­es the large intes­tine. There, it becomes pre­bi­otics for your probiotics–in oth­er words, yum-yum for your colon bac­te­ria. Only a tiny por­tion of neo­hes­peridin DC is absorbed by the body.

Most of it is bro­ken down in this way into harm­less sub­stances. The lit­tle that comes out decom­pos­es in the soil in the same way as flavonoids.

In the body, neo­hes­peridin DC takes the same route as flavonoids—antioxidants that give fruits, berries and veg­eta­bles their colour, among oth­er things.

Is neohesperidin DC safe?

There have been exten­sive stud­ies of neo­hes­peridin DC. They have shown that the sub­stance is not tox­ic, muta­genic or carcinogenic.

However, as always, there is a lim­it to the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). This is 5 mil­ligrams per kilo­gram of body weight.

To reach the ADI, you have to con­sume quite a lot of unhealthy foods. It takes about 2 kilos of sweets with 150 mil­ligrams of neo­hes­peridin DC per kilo or 10 litres of soft drinks with 350 mil­ligrams per litre.

Benefits of neohesperidin DC

Benefits of neo­hes­peridin DC:

  • It is up to 3,000 times sweet­er than reg­u­lar sugar.
  • It enhances the sweet­ness of oth­er sweeteners.
  • It enhances flavours.
  • It can improve the mouth­feel (e.g. con­tribute to the “creami­ness” of dairy products).
  • It is good at mask­ing bit­ter flavours.
  • It is metabolised nat­u­ral­ly in the body by the intesti­nal flora.
  • It tol­er­ates heating.
  • It has a very long shelf life.
  • It is sta­ble in both acidic and alka­line environments.
  • It pro­vides no ener­gy (0 kcal).
  • It does not affect blood sug­ar lev­els (GI = 0).
  • It does not cause tooth decay.

Disadvantages of neohesperidin DC

Disadvantages of neo­hes­peridin DC:

  • It has a delay before we feel its sweet­ness in our mouth.
  • It has a more pro­longed after­taste than sugar.
  • It has a menthol/​liquorice after­taste if not com­bined with oth­er sweeteners.
  • There are indi­ca­tions that high expo­sure in food work­ers can lead to nau­sea and migraines.


For almost three decades, Neohesperidin DC was autho­rised in the EU. Yet this vet­er­an is quite unknown. This is despite its many inter­est­ing prop­er­ties and the fact that it is nat­u­ral­ly degrad­ed inside and out­side the body.

In the food indus­try, it is main­ly intend­ed to be used as a sweet­en­er, but with the pos­i­tive “side effects” of mask­ing bit­ter tastes and enhanc­ing oth­er tastes and sen­sa­tions. It is sta­ble in acidic and alka­line envi­ron­ments, with­stands heat­ing, and is durable.

But it is not entire­ly sug­ar-like. It takes a while for the sweet­ness to be felt, lingers for a long time, and has a menthol/​liquorice aftertaste.

Is there any­thing bet­ter? A more sug­ary sweet­en­er? And nat­ur­al? Yes, there is Reb M.

More natural alternatives

Reb M is a ste­vi­ol gly­co­side found nat­u­ral­ly in the plant ste­via (ste­via rebau­di­ana). The taste is described as clean, sweet, pleas­ant and agree­able. It does not have the bit­ter­ness and liquorice taste of some oth­er ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides. And it is allowed in the EU. Curious? Contact us, and we’ll tell you more.

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