Everything You Need to Know About Allulose: A Scientific Guide


As cases of diabetes, obesity, and hypertension continue to rise, more people are looking for solutions in the form of sugar substitutes. Sugar, after all, has been linked to a number of health issues , but going cold turkey on the sweet stuff can be difficult. One sugar substitute in particular that has been making waves is allulose. This natural, low-calorie sugar was recently approved for use in food by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a development that one industry report published in October 2023 noted was key to the $17 billion industry. Because allulose is said to offer the flavor and texture of sugar without the calories or blood sugar spike, many people see it as a promising alternative. Still, like any food or ingredient, there are reasons to be cautious. Read on to learn how allulose is made, the potential risks and benefits, and how to use it.
What Is Allulose? Allulose, also known as D-allulose or D-Psicose, is a natural but rare monosaccharide (simple sugar), according to the American Chemical Society (ACS) . It’s found in small amounts in foods such as raisins and figs, says Brittany Poulson, RDN, CDCES , who is based in Grantsville, Utah. While allulose is technically a natural sugar, it occurs in such small amounts (it’s considered a rare sugar) that most of the allulose sold in grocery stores and online is artificially made, Poulson notes. It was originally produced from corn, but manufacturers now create it from cellulose (the primary substance in plant cell walls), starch (a type of carbohydrate), or other byproducts, per the ACS. Allulose is chemically similar to fructose (a sugar in fruit) and glucose (a simple sugar), however, it isn’t metabolized by the body in the same way. About 70 percent of the allulose we consume is absorbed by the small intestine, eventually leaving the body via urine within 24 hours, according to Food Insight . The remaining 30 percent passes through the large intestine and is excreted within 48 hours. Therefore, unlike other sugars, allulose has no impact on blood glucose (sugar) or insulin levels, according to a review and meta-analysis published in November 2018 in Nutrients . Allulose also contains significantly fewer calories than sucrose (table sugar): 0.4 calories per gram (or ¼ teaspoon) in allulose compared with 4 calories per gram in table sugar, per the FDA . Yet allulose still has the sweetness of sugar, Poulson says, albeit not the same intensity. The authors of a separate study that was also published in November 2018 in Nutrients asked 40 people to rate the intensity of 16 sweeteners, including allulose and a sucrose-allulose mixture. Participants rated allulose as less sweet than sucrose, but they found that equal amounts of sucrose and allulose mixed together were nearly as sweet as sucrose alone. You can find allulose in small amounts in foods like figs, raisins, wheat, and maple syrup, but it’s also added to sweeten foods, according to the Calorie Control Council . In addition, you can buy allulose online and in stores. At this point, allulose isn’t widely used in commercial products, and it’s pricier than other sweeteners, says Frank Hu, MD, PhD , a professor of nutrition and epidemiology and the chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
How Safe Is Allulose? Safety Allulose is generally recognized as safe by the FDA . The FDA also reviewed allulose to determine if it needed to be accounted for in the grams of total sugars or added sugars on nutrition facts labels. In May 2016, the agency stated that allulose must be declared as a sugar on nutrition facts labels. But after further review, the FDA issued updated guidance for food manufacturers in October 2020 that reversed its initial statement. Currently, food manufacturers don’t have to account for allulose in the grams of total sugars or added sugars in foods. The FDA considers allulose a carb, however, meaning it has to be included in the total carbohydrate amounts on nutrition facts labels.
Potential Benefits of Allulose Potential Benefits This alternative sweetener packs more than a pleasant flavor — it also offers potential benefits. Steadier Blood Sugar After looking over the research, the FDA concluded that allulose has no impact on blood sugar levels. But some studies suggest that allulose may help tame blood sugar spikes after eating. For example, a study published in 2021 in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care found that ingesting 10 grams of allulose dissolved in a glass of water led to a reduction in plasma glucose 30 minutes after eating 50 grams of table sugar, compared with plain water. In other words, the allulose was enough to counteract the blood sugar spike normally attributed to table sugar, researchers say. As this study included only 30 people, it’s hard to tell how allulose might affect the broader population. What’s more, the people in the study didn’t have diabetes. More research is needed to determine whether allulose offers short- or long-term benefits for people with diabetes. Keto Compatibility Sugar contains carbs and is a no-no for those following the ketogenic (keto) diet. The keto diet is an eating pattern that involves limiting carb intake to fewer than 20 to 50 grams per day, according to Harvard Health Publishing . Allulose is a keto-friendly sweetener, according to . While allulose is considered a carb on nutrition facts labels, it’s not metabolized in the body and contributes very few calories to the diet, notes the Calorie Control Council. For that reason, allulose may not interfere with a ketogenic eating plan. Baking Benefits Allulose tastes and behaves like granulated sugar, making it a good choice for baked goods and ice cream, per the Calorie Control Council. While the end result won’t be as sweet (Food Insight notes that allulose is only 70 percent as sweet as table sugar), replacing table sugar with allulose when baking will lower the calories and prevent blood sugar spikes.
Can Allulose Help With Weight Loss? Weight Loss Effect There has been a lot of controversy over the use of artificial sweeteners to aid weight loss, and in May 2023, the World Health Organization released guidelines recommending against the use of non-sugar sweeteners to control body weight or reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases, citing the findings of a systematic review. Research, however, is still ongoing and has been limited to small and short-term studies in humans. Few studies have looked at allulose specifically. In one that did, 121 overweight Korean adults supplemented with a placebo, a low dose of allulose (4 grams twice a day), or a high dose of allulose (7 grams twice a day). After 12 weeks, people who supplemented with high doses of allulose saw significant decreases in body fat percentage and body fat mass compared with the low-dose and control groups, according to the results , which were published in Nutrients in February 2018. Researchers don’t know why this might be, though previous research suggests that allulose regulates fat metabolism in mice.
Risks and Side Effects of Allulose Health Risks and Side Effects While allulose is generally recognized as safe, it can carry side effects, mainly symptoms of gastrointestinal (GI) upset such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and stomachache, Poulson says. In a study published in December 2018 in Nutrients , 30 adults with no chronic disease experienced severe diarrhea and GI symptoms such as bloating and nausea after ingesting 0.5 grams of allulose per kilogram of body weight in a single serving, but they had no symptoms at lesser amounts. These findings led researchers to suggest a maximum single serving of 0.4 grams of allulose per kilogram of body weight and a maximum daily total of 0.9 grams per kilogram. So a person with a body weight of 132 pounds (60 kilograms) can consume a maximum of 24 grams of allulose in a single serving and 54 grams daily. For reference, one packet of sugar — like the kind you’d add to coffee — is approximately 3 grams, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture . People with diabetes who take insulin will want to be especially cautious, because those dosages are based on the carbohydrate content of foods. While allulose is included in the total carbohydrate content on food labels, it doesn’t affect blood sugar, which could lead someone to take more insulin than needed, causing low blood sugar. Make sure to consult your primary healthcare provider about allulose if you take insulin for diabetes.
How to Use Allulose in Recipes Recipes Like many sugar substitutes, allulose is frequently used in baked goods. If you’re interested in using allulose to cook and bake at home, here are a few recipes featuring the sweetener: Easy Keto Caramel With Allulose Sugar-Free Keto Carrot Cake With Almond Flour Sweet and Gooey Low Carb Millionaire Bars Keto Pecan Clusters Sugar-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
Summary Allulose is an alternative sweetener with the same taste and texture as table sugar. It has only a fraction of the calories and doesn’t raise blood sugar levels. While allulose is generally recognized as safe, it may cause GI upset when eaten in large amounts.


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