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Allulose is a new low calorie sweetener that is beginning to make an appearance in foods on grocery store shelves.

If you are used to scanning the sweeteners on grocery store shelves, you may have noticed a new ingredient recently. Though it has been on the market here in the US since 2015, allulose is beginning to make an appearance in more foods for a wide variety of reasons.

Allulose is often called a rare sugar. I just figured this was a clever marketing term, but there is actually an International Society of Rare Sugars in Japan. Though we think of sucrose (that white granular substance we use while cooking and baking) as sugar, there are actually over 50 kinds of rare sugar that show up in nature. A little tweak here or there to a basic sugar molecule can result in a different sweetness level, different browning characteristics, and a different way of being metabolized in our gut.

In April of this year the FDA announced that allulose can be excluded from the total and added sugar counts on Nutrition Facts labels when used as an ingredient. Susan Mayne, Ph.D. and director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition stated “The latest data suggests that allulose is different from other sugars in that it is not metabolized by the human 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.”

So what does that mean for us? If a food contains allulose as an ingredient, it will be declared in the ingredient statement on the label. However, it will not show up on the label as an added sugar in the Nutrition Facts. Each gram of allulose can be calculated as contributing 0.4 calories per gram rather than 4 calories per gram like sucrose. I recently saw a bag of allulose in a grocery store with a front label that read “100% sugar free.” Be on the lookout for these types of claims. Allulose is still a sugar.

Allulose occurs naturally in very small amounts in foods like wheat, jackfruit, figs and raisins. However, on a commercial scale, allulose can be made through a special processing of carbohydrates from corn, sugar beets and other sources of sucrose.

Allulose is an intriguing new ingredient for food manufacturers who are striving to give consumers what they say they want: a reduced sugar product that tastes great without the aftertaste or controversy of artificial non-nutritive sweeteners. It will most likely begin to show up in products marketed toward those trying to lose weight and those with Type 2 diabetes as research continues into the effects of allulose on blood glucose and insulin levels.

Like all novel ingredients, remember that this is just one promising tool to aid in achieving sweetness at a lower calorie level. In most cases, allulose is going to be included in foods that we should only be eating occasionally as special treats anyway. It is hard work to eat a balanced diet in moderation and enjoy physical activity, yet these are the keys to healthy living. Make it a healthy day!

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Sources:

International Society of Rare Sugars (2019) at http://www.isrs.kagawa-u.ac.jp/index.html

Arnold, N. (2019, April 17) FDA in Brief: FDA allows the low-calorie sweetener allulose to be excluded from total and added sugars counts on Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels when used as an ingredient. athttps://www.fda.gov/news-events/fda-brief/fda-brief-fda-allows-low-calorie-sweetener-allulose-be-excluded-total-and-added-sugars-counts

The Calorie Control Council (2019) Allulose Low Calorie Sugar at https://allulose.org/

Green, E. (2018, June 27) Allulose potential: German start-up develops “real sugar without calories” at https://www.foodingredientsfirst.com/news/sugar-without-calories-german-start-up-eyes-emerging-potential-for-allulose-in-europe.html

Wenli, Z., Yu, S., Zhang, T., Jiang, B., & Mu, W. (2016) Recent advances in D-allulose: Physiological functionalities, applications, and biological production. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 54, pp.127-137. doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2016.06.004 at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2016.06.004

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/cupcake-cake-sweets-sugar-carrot-279523/

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