AUTHORITY NUTRITION

Is Allulose a Healthy Sweetener?

Written by Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE on September 10, 2017

Allulose is a new sweetener on the market.

It supposedly has the taste and texture of sugar, yet contains minimal calories and carbs. In addition, early studies suggest it may provide some health benefits.

However, as with any sugar substitute, there may be concerns about its safety and health effects with long-term use.

This article takes a detailed look at allulose and whether including it in your diet is a good idea.

What Is Allulose?

Sugar on Teaspoon

Allulose is also known as D-psicose. It is classified as a "rare sugar" because it is naturally present in only a few foods. Wheat, figs and raisins all contain it.

Like glucose and fructose, allulose is a monosaccharide, or single sugar. In contrast, table sugar, also known as sucrose, is a disaccharide made of glucose and fructose joined together.

In fact, allulose has the same chemical formula as fructose, but is arranged differently. This difference in structure prevents your body from processing allulose the way it processes fructose.

Although 70–84% of the allulose you consume is absorbed into your blood from your digestive tract, it is eliminated in the urine without being used as fuel (, ).

It's been shown to resist fermentation by your gut bacteria, minimizing the likelihood of bloating, gas or other digestive problems ().

And here’s some good news for people who have diabetes or are watching their blood sugar — it does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels.

Allulose also provides only 0.2–0.4 calories per gram, or about 1/10 the calories of table sugar.

In addition, early research suggests that allulose has anti-inflammatory properties, and may help prevent obesity and reduce the risk of chronic disease ().

Although small amounts of this rare sugar are found in some foods, in recent years, manufacturers have used enzymes to convert fructose from corn and other plants into allulose ().

The taste and texture have been described as identical to table sugar. It is about 70% as sweet as sugar, which is similar to the sweetness of erythritol, another popular sweetener.

Summary: Allulose is a rare sugar with the same chemical formula as fructose. Because it isn't metabolized by the body, it does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels and provides minimal calories.

It May Help Control Blood Sugar

Allulose may turn out to be a powerful tool for managing diabetes.

Indeed, a number of animal studies have found that it lowers blood sugar, increases insulin sensitivity and decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes by protecting the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas (, , , ).

In a study comparing obese rats treated with allulose to rats given water or glucose, the allulose group had improved beta cell function, better blood sugar response and less belly fat gain than the other groups ().

Early research also suggests that allulose may have beneficial effects on blood sugar regulation in humans (, ).

A controlled study gave 20 healthy, young adults either 5–7.5 grams of allulose with 75 grams of the sugar maltodextrin, or just maltodextrin on its own.

The group that took allulose experienced significantly lower blood sugar and insulin levels compared to the group that took maltodextrin alone ().

In another study, 26 adults consumed a meal alone or with 5 grams of allulose. Some people were healthy while others had prediabetes.

After the meal, their blood sugar was measured every 30 minutes for two hours. The researchers found that participants who took allulose had significantly lower blood sugar levels at 30 and 60 minutes ().

Although these studies are small and more research in people with diabetes and prediabetes is needed, the evidence to date is encouraging.

Summary: In animal and human studies, allulose has been found to lower blood sugar levels, increase insulin sensitivity and help protect the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells.

It May Boost Fat Loss

Research in obese rats suggests that allulose may also help boost fat loss. This includes unhealthy belly fat, also known as visceral fat, which is strongly linked to heart disease and other health problems (, , , ).

In one study, obese rats were fed a normal or high-fat diet that contained supplements of either allulose, sucrose or erythritol for eight weeks.

It’s important to note that, like allulose, erythritol provides virtually no calories and does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels.

Nevertheless, allulose had more benefits than erythritol. The rats given allulose gained less belly fat than the rats fed erythritol or sucrose ().

In another study, rats were fed a high-sugar diet with either 5% cellulose fiber or 5% allulose. The allulose group burned significantly more calories and fat overnight, and gained far less fat than the cellulose-fed rats ().

Because allulose is such a new sweetener, its effects on weight and fat loss in humans aren’t known because they haven't been studied yet.

However, based on the controlled studies showing lower blood sugar and insulin levels in people who took allulose, it seems as though it may help with weight loss as well.

Clearly, high-quality studies in humans are needed before any conclusions can be made.

Summary: Studies in obese rats suggest that allulose may increase fat burning and help prevent obesity. However, high-quality research in humans is needed.

It May Protect Against Fatty Liver

Studies in rats and mice have found that, in addition to preventing weight gain, allulose seems to reduce fat storage in the liver (, ).

Hepatic steatosis, more commonly known as fatty liver, is strongly linked to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

In one study, diabetic mice were given either allulose, glucose, fructose or no sugar.

The liver fat in the allulose mice decreased by 38% compared to mice given no sugar. The allulose mice also experienced less weight gain and lower blood sugar levels than the other groups ().

At the same time as allulose may promote fat loss in the liver and body, it may also protect against muscle loss.

In a 15-week study of severely obese mice, allulose significantly decreased liver and belly fat, yet prevented the loss of lean mass ().

Although these results are promising, the effects on liver health have yet to be tested in controlled human studies.

Summary: Research in mice and rats has found allulose may reduce the risk of fatty liver disease. However, the number of studies is limited, and high-quality research in humans is needed.

Is Allulose Safe?

Allulose seems to be a safe sweetener.

It has been added to the list of foods generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration. However, it is not yet allowed to be sold in Europe.

Studies in allulose-fed rats lasting between three and 18 months have shown no toxicity or other health-related problems related to the sweetener (, ).

In one study, rats were fed about 1/2 gram of allulose per pound (0.45 kg) of body weight for 18 months. By the end of the study, adverse effects were minimal and similar in both the allulose and control groups ().

It's worth mentioning that this was an extremely large dose. For reference, the equivalent amount for an adult weighing 150 pounds (68 kg) would be about 83 grams per day — more than 1/3 cup.

In human studies, more realistic doses of 5–15 grams (1–3 teaspoons) per day for up to 12 weeks weren't associated with any negative side effects (, ).

Allulose appears safe and is unlikely to cause health problems when consumed in moderation. However, as with any food, individual sensitivities are always a possibility.

Summary: Animal studies using extremely high doses of allulose for up to 18 months found no signs of toxicity or side effects. Human studies are limited, but have not found any health risks related to this sweetener.

Should You Use Allulose?

Allulose seems to provide a taste and texture remarkably similar to sugar, while providing minimal calories.

Although right now there are only a few high-quality human studies on the effects of allulose, it appears to be safe when consumed in moderation.

However, more studies in humans are on the way. Several studies are either recruiting, underway or have been completed but not yet published.

At this time, allulose isn't widely available, aside from being used in certain snack bars by a brand called Quest Nutrition.

Quest Hero Bars each contain about 12 grams of allulose, and Quest Beyond Cereal Bars contain about 7 grams. These amounts are similar to the doses used in studies.

Granulated allulose can also be purchased online, but it is quite expensive. For instance, allulose marketed under the All-You-Lose brand costs about twice as much as erythritol on Amazon.com.

Until there is high-quality research confirming its health benefits, it's probably best to use allulose occasionally or alongside less expensive sweeteners.

An evidence-based nutrition article from our experts at Authority Nutrition.

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