Allulose is a sweetener that’s been on the market since 2015 and is now gaining popularity because of its low calorie count. It has 90 percent fewer calories than table sugar, according to the Calorie Control Council. The sugar occurs naturally in a handful of foods and may be an ingredient showing up in many more packaged goods in the future—including beverages, pastries, yogurts, ice creams, salad dressings, chewing gum, and more. What do you need to know about this seemingly miracle ingredient? We tapped the experts to find out.
What is allulose?
Allulose is a simple sugar found naturally in small amounts in certain foods such as wheat, jackfruit, figs, raisins, brown sugar, maple syrup, and caramel sauce. While your body absorbs allulose, it does not metabolize it—which makes it extremely low in calories.
“Allulose can also be manufactured,” says Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, a clinical nutrition professor at Boston University and host of the health and wellness podcast SpotOn! Besides containing just a very small amount of calories, allulose’s effect on blood sugar is minimal. “It produces only a negligible rise in blood glucose levels so would be a plus for the millions of Americans with diabetes and prediabetes,” says Blake. If you’re wondering if artificial sweeteners are bad, here’s what you need to know.
What do the new FDA guidelines regarding allulose mean?
In April 2019, the FDA issued guidelines that allulose will still count toward a food’s total calories, but the agency will allow manufacturers to “exercise enforcement discretion to allow the use of a revised, lower calorie count.” This means manufacturers are now allowed to use 0.4 calories per gram of allulose when determining the number of calories that come from allulose in a serving of a food or beverage. Previously, per the 2016 Nutrition Facts label rule, allulose was counted as 4 calories per gram of sweetener—the same calorie count in table sugar.
“Because our bodies respond to allulose so differently [than we respond to table sugar], the FDA made the decision to exclude it from the sugars declaration,” explains Sarah Marjoram, MS, RDN, a dietitian in Atlanta. Want to eat less sugar? Try these easy food swaps to reduce your sugar intake.
Where will you see allulose?
“Science has recently discovered ways to produce allulose on a larger scale through a process using corn,” says Marjoram. “This discovery is what has made it available as a food ingredient. In addition to tasting like sugar, allulose functions very similarly to sugar—making it a very versatile ingredient. It can be used in baked, frozen, or liquid items for sweetness.”
How is allulose is different from other types of sweeteners?
“There are different types of sugars, which include monosaccharides, disaccharides, and oligosaccharides,” says Stephanie Ambrose, MS, RDN, CPT, a dietitian in Houma, LA. “Monosaccharides are your simplest sugars. They include glucose, fructose, and galactose. Normal table sugar is made up of glucose and fructose,” says Ambrose. When two monosaccharides are joined together, it is called a disaccharide.”
Allulose is a monosaccharide, a simple sugar. And it’s about 70 percent as sweet as table sugar, says Blake. Get a list of healthy desserts that can actually help you lose weight.
Why would you want to eat foods with allulose?
“Allulose is a great alternative for individuals who are trying to lose weight and eat healthier,” notes Ambrose. “The calories quickly add up if you use normal table sugar, which means you can cut your calories significantly by replacing table sugar with allulose. Allulose does not cause dental decay, which is another problem seen with heavy sugar consumption in children and adults. This means fewer dentist appointments for cavities.”
Are there any reasons to be concerned about allulose in your food?
Allulose is on the FDA’s list of foods that are generally recognized as safe (GRAS). This means the ingredient is safe under the conditions of its intended use—but, experts say, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remain cautious. “Although animal studies of allulose are promising, human studies are limited,” notes Marjoram. “It’s a relatively new product, and we just don’t have a lot of long-term data yet. When new products emerge on the marketplace, consumers sometimes have a tendency to dive all in. It’s always best to approach food and nutrition with moderation.”
Blake says she would like to see more research conducted. “It would be worth studying if there is an upper tolerable level that should be consumed daily without any negative gastrointestinal or kidney effects,” she says.