Dear Dietitian: I have Type 2 diabetes, and I’ve read about a new sweetener called allulose. Can you tell me more about it from a dietitian’s view? — Thanks, Jill.
Dear Jill: Allulose, or D-psicose, is the newest member of artificial sweeteners. It is classified as a rare sugar because it is found naturally in small amounts in some foods, such as wheat, maple syrup, kiwi, and figs. It is available in both liquid and solid forms, and it is also added to commercial products like Quest protein bars.
Allulose was first discovered in the 1940s, but it was Japanese scientist Ken Izumori who discovered the enzyme that converts fructose to allulose in 1994. Allulose is considered an epimer of fructose (fruit sugar) since it has the same chemical formula but a different molecular structure. Today most allulose is made from corn.
Sugar, or sucrose, is a heavy hitter when it comes to calories. Excess calories lead to excess weight, which increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The goal of artificial sweeteners like allulose is to replace or reduce the use of sugar.
Allulose does not raise blood sugar levels or cause an increase in insulin levels. Therefore, it may be useful to those who have diabetes or who are overweight. Some small studies have shown allulose to aid in weight loss and decrease body fat, but many more studies are needed before this claim can be added to its list of attributes.
Allulose tastes like sugar and has a similar mouthfeel and texture. It boasts no aftertaste like some other non-nutritive sweeteners. It browns better than table sugar, making it appealing to bakers, and claims to add the same fluff to cotton candy and chewiness to caramel as sucrose. Allulose is 70% as sweet as sugar, so about 1 1/3 cups of allulose is equivalent to 1 cup of sugar when cooking.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, allulose has 0.4 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram in sucrose. While it is absorbed by the small intestine, it is not metabolized into energy, thereby yielding negligible calories. Since allulose is a type of sugar, it is included in the carbohydrate and sugar content on the nutrition label. However, it is not considered an added sugar.
As with many products concocted in a lab, allulose has potential side effects. If consumed in large quantities, it may cause abdominal discomfort, excessive gas, or diarrhea. More studies are needed to understand the long-term safety of its use and other potential side effects.
Finally, be prepared to adjust your budget if you’re going to add allulose to your grocery list. A 12-oz bag of granulated allulose costs about $11 on Amazon. The same amount of granulated sugar costs about 53 cents. To soften the sticker shock, allulose scored an impressive 4.6 out of 5 stars in 62 reviews.
Until next time, be healthy!
LEANNE McCRATE, RD, LD, CNSC, is an award-winning dietitian with more than 17 years of clinical experience in the hospital setting. Her mission is to educate the public on sound, evidence-based nutrition. Do you have a nutrition question? Email her at DearDietitian411@gmail.com.