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Allulose is sneaking into your food...

Meet Allulose - the sweetener you may already be consuming without even knowing it!

I’ll explain what Allulose is, where it comes from, and provide a little history about it too. I’ll also share my thoughts on potential long-term impacts, as well as how I believe we should move forward from this (maybe) new to you information!

What is Allulose?
Allulose is the most recent sweetener to cause a stir – it looks like sugar, tastes like sugar, has about 70% of the sweetness of regular sugar, and it even feels like sugar if you were to touch it before tasting it!

Why the hype about Allulose?

  • It tastes, and supposedly bakes and freezes, just like regular sugar but it’s not counted as a sugar.
  • It’s naturally low in calories (0.4 calories per gram compared to regular sugar, which contains 4 calories per gram), i.e., it has 10% the caloric value of regular sugar.
  • It does not raise blood sugar and therefore doesn’t trigger the release of insulin. 
  • It apparently has no deleterious metabolic impact. According to current research, 95% of it is excreted by the kidneys. 
  • It decreases the liver’s production of fat.
  • It appears to be a safe, low-calorie sweetener without some of the side-effects associated with other sweeteners. For example, the bitter aftertaste associated with stevia, or the digestive upset associated with sugar alcohols.
  • Animal studies suggest that Allulose may even lower blood glucose and delay the onset of type 2 diabetes
  • Some people anecdotally report seeing a slight reduction in their postprandial (after eating a meal) glucose measures after consuming it in their morning coffee.

What’s the history?
It was originally discovered in 1991 in Japan, at Kagawa University - Dr. Ken Izumori found an enzyme that converted fructose into a rare sugar, D-psicose (aka allulose).(1)  Allulose has been on sale in America since 2012.

If you haven’t heard of Allulose before, here’s why…
In 2014, the FDA deemed Allulose GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe), and in 2019 the FDA determined that because “Allulose is different from other sugars in that it is not metabolized by the body in the same way as table sugar. It has fewer calories, produces only negligible increases in blood glucose or insulin levels and does not promote dental decay” (3), it does not need to be listed under total or added sugars on the nutrition facts label. Therefore, you’ll only see Allulose if you know to look for it. For example, if you happen to enjoy Chobani’s mixed berry, zero sugar, yogurt it’s the first ingredient listed after milk and water!

Is it really a ‘natural’ sugar?
It is plant based. It was originally found in wheat, subsequently found in small amounts in certain fruits (e.g: figs, raisins and jackfruit). Now, it is commercially produced from corn or fructose - hence it’s deemed a natural sugar.
A. Storms, VP at Tate & Lyle, confirms the commercial production process with Watson, E. (2019) on Food Navigator (2)  “We do say that Allulose is not an artificial sweetener, however, as it exists as a molecule in nature in fruits, figs, raisins and other things, although we don’t extract it from those sources as that would not be commercially viable.”

My positive thoughts about Allulose…

  • An alternative sweetener (which appears to be) without negative health consequences has been highly overdue!  
    Only 12% of Americans are considered metabolically healthy (4), and it’s largely agreed that metabolic dysfunction, and the concomitant epidemic of diabetes and obesity, are the result of the increased consumption of sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
    If Allulose lives up to the research done to-date, and everyone shifts to Allulose instead of other sugars/sweeteners, we may see a big positive change in overall health which would be superb! 
  • A sweetener that doesn’t skew the palate as much as so many others do is a welcome change!
    Sweeteners such as stevia, and Splenda are hundreds of times sweeter than regular table sugar, making it impossible to enjoy regular foods without adding some sort of sweetener.
    Allulose is not a high-intensity sweetener, it’s 70% as sweet as regular table sugar, and therefore appears to be a good ‘stepping-stone’ to help people titrate away from incredibly sweet tasting foods.
  • A sweetener, when consumed in small amounts, that doesn’t cause digestive upset is also a good thing!
    Sugar alcohols can cause digestive delights such as bloating and gas. Allulose is a monosaccharide - a single molecule sugar - so there’s technically no digestion required, but consuming large doses (over 54 grams per day) may cause digestive issues such as bloating, gas and abdominal pain.

My concerns about where we go from here…

  • It’s a huge win for food manufacturers
    Manufacturers recognize that “the first two things consumers look for on the nutrition facts label now are calories and sugar…if you can have an impact on those two areas, you can make a massive difference in terms of how consumers will see a product, and Allulose can now deliver against both” (2).  
    Since the FDA has ruled that Allulose doesn’t need to be listed as a sugar, the food industry is likely to start putting it into everything, literally!
  • Avoiding processed foods won’t be enough, it’ll be in everything without us knowing
    Increasing numbers of people are thankfully increasingly aware of the downside of processed/fast-foods, however, Allulose has already made its way into trusted brands of yogurts such as Chobani, so unless you’re reading the ingredients label it may well have been in something you ate today!
  • The imminent proliferation of Allulose will simply perpetuate the need for something sweet
    Real, whole foods can, and do, taste good –  that’s one of my core beliefs and something I work with my clients to get them to appreciate too. Consuming foods with Allulose will continue to make you crave sweets without really knowing why, making it challenging for to enjoy real, whole foods and avoid the need for manufactured foods.  
  • My biggest concern is about our microbiome
    Research to-date shows Allulose doesn’t have any detrimental effect on the microbiome) which is great. However, it will most likely make it more difficult for you to have an appetite for anything that isn’t sweet.  
    Consider this challenge: The next time you consume something sweet, check-in with yourself afterwards and see if you really feel like eating something without a sweet taste. It’s unlikely you will. Most people say that once they eat something sweet, it’s hard for them to shift their palates back to enjoying food without a sweet taste.
    To establish, and nurture, a healthy microbiome we need to eat plenty of fiber-rich (e.g., legumes/beans, and other crunchy vegetables such asparagus, jicama, etc.) as well as fermented foods (e.g., sauerkraut). Unfortunately those foods are likely to become even less appealing with the proliferation of sweeter options.
  • Lastly, it’s still a relatively new player in the food industry.
    I’ll be watching, and waiting, for more research with interest, and now that you know more about it I hope you will too!

In summary, eating lots of sugar (in any form) has never been, nor likely ever will be, a recommendation to expedite optimal health!  

Rather than thinking you’re going to eschew sugar forever (which is NOT sustainable!), the following are my guidelines when it comes to sweet treats‌ (irrespective of how they’re sweetened!):

  1. Eat balanced meals and snacks –  something with protein, fat & complex/fiber-rich carbohydrates before indulging in anything sweet.
  2. Make the sweet treat yourself or have a friend make it for you, or at least recognize and be able to pronounce every ingredient.
  3. Share it.
  4. Savor and enjoy it as a treat (i.e., NOT an everyday event).
  5. Walk/move after eating it – if you can, walk home after eating dessert in a restaurant.