This natural sweetener is the latest low-calorie sugar substitute and may offer health benefits.
By Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN
Move over stevia, there’s another natural plant-based alternative to sugar on the block, and its name is allulose. Unlike many other low-calorie sweeteners, allulose, also known as D-psicose, is technically classified as a rare sugar because it can naturally be found in just a few foods, such as kiwi, raisins and figs.
Chemically, it's similar to fructose, the type of natural sugar found in fruit. However, your body doesn’t process it the same way. And this is where it gets interesting. It's virtually calorie free. And it has absolutely no effect on your blood sugar due to the way our body metabolizes it, which may be good news for people with diabetes.
Too good to be true? Let’s discuss.
How does allulose compare to other low-calorie sweeteners?
Hard to say at this time. What we do know is that Americans overall are consuming too much added sugar in their diets. Too much added sugar is associated with increased inflammation in the body, which may lead to an onset of a host of diseases.
According to the FDA, which recently approved allulose as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), it provides about 0.4 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram in cane sugar. The FDA has agreed to allow it not to be included in the added sugar section on the new nutrition facts label – similar to zero-calorie sweeteners. However, it will still be included in total carbohydrates.
It has around 70% of the sweetness of regular table sugar. To put that into perspective, stevia is around 200 times sweeter than table sugar, and sucralose around 600 times sweeter. So, one could guess that you might actually need to consume more allulose if looking for the same level of sweetness as sugar; in a recipe, 1 1/3 cup of allulose sweetens like 1 cup of cane sugar.Just like other low-calorie sweeteners, it's available in a granulated form and looks like everyday sugar.
Does allulose have any health benefits?
Here’s the thing. Most of the research to date on allulose has been conducted on animals, not humans. For example, one study on mice fed a high-fat diet with allulose as an intervention revealed a decrease in inflammation and weight gain compared to mice fed a high-fat diet without allulose. Another study looking at rats found that after 4 weeks, the rats given allulose had improved blood lipids and less fat accumulation compared to rats with diets supplemented with glucose, fructose or cellulose.
In one human study, allulose was found to help lower blood sugar levels post meal consumption. However, the study only included 20 subjects, which is a rather small study size to draw any conclusions. A 2018 Korean study of 121 overweight participants, who were given either sucralose or allulose, found that body fat percentage and body fat mass were significantly decreased following allulose supplementation.
Are there any side effects?
In the animal studies to date, high amounts of allulose were provided and no side effects noted. There was one human study with 30 participants whose goal was to determine if there would be any gastrointestinal side effects, as none were noted elsewhere. The study found that for adults with a mean body weight of 132 pounds, up to 54 grams can be consumed daily without any side effects. For reference: One packet of sugar is 4 grams. Consuming more than 54 grams of allulose per day may cause digestive issues, such as bloating, gas and abdominal pain.
As more and more individuals look to lower their total sugar intake, especially those following a keto or low-carb diet, you can expect to see more and more companies including allulose in their products. At the moment, it does appear to be a healthy alternative to table sugar; however, more research is needed to conclusively confirm any health benefits.
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