What Is Allulose?
Allulose is a rare sugar that naturally occurs in fruits like figs and raisins. “It’s about 70% as sweet as sugar,” says Anthony DiMarino, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic. “So a little less sweet than normal sugar.”
Basic sugar (called sucrose) is the most well-known form of sweetener. But there are many other types of sugar that are in or added to foods. There are simple sugars, called monosaccharides, which contain a single sugar molecule. These include glucose, fructose, galactose, ribose, and xylose. And then there are disaccharides, which are two sugar molecules bonded together, like sucrose, lactose, and maltose.
Allulose is a monosaccharide. It has 90% fewer calories than sucrose, which makes it virtually calorie-free. Researchers have recently found ways to produce allulose on a larger scale, which may allow it to become a popular sweetener in the future.
Is Allulose Healthy?
The FDA states that allulose is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).
“Basically, they know that small amounts aren’t going to do any harm to people if they consume it,” DiMarino says. “What I recommend with my patients is that whatever you’re using, whether it’s natural sugar ... or any artificial sweetener, is that you use your best judgment and use it in small amounts in moderation. Because we don't want to rely on them too much.”
If you follow these suggestions, allulose can be a great replacement to regular sugar.
“What's interesting is that it's not metabolized by the body. It's absorbed by the small intestine, but then actually excreted. So none of the calories get absorbed or stored in your body,” DiMarino says. “With the limited research that's been done, it's been found that [allulose] doesn't have effects on blood sugars or an insulin response.”
Does Allulose Cause Any Side Effects?
Most people who eat allulose in moderation won’t notice any major issues. But it’s important to note that everyone has a different tolerance to artificial sweeteners. “One side effect that people tend to see is some gastrointestinal discomfort, like maybe some bloating, or some issues going to the bathroom,” DiMarino says.
For that reason, it’s a good idea to add small amounts of allulose to your food at first.
“It's more so trial and error in finding how much is your limit,” DiMarino says. “But if you eat it in small amounts over the period of the day, or just sparingly throughout the week, you shouldn't end up having any kind of side effects.”
Who Should Use Allulose?
Allulose can be a great substitute if you want to cut back on the amount of sugar or overall calories you eat. You can use it to make baked goods, frozen desserts, or your favorite drink.
Since the sweetener has an extremely low sugar content, people on the ketogenic or “keto” diet have started to use allulose more. People who are on the keto diet eat very few carbohydrates. Allulose doesn’t have many, so it’s a good choice for keto-friendly sweets.
Allulose also doesn’t affect your blood sugar or insulin levels. So it’s a good alternative for people with certain conditions like diabetes.
“The two groups of people I feel like this would be most beneficial for would be people with diabetes, especially those who are trying to reduce their blood sugar. And people who are overweight or obese and trying to cut back on calories,” DiMarino says.
Who Shouldn’t Eat Allulose?
If you’re allergic to any artificial or alternative sweetener, you should stay away from allulose. But allergies to these sweeteners aren’t very common.
Experts are still studying how constant use of artificial or alternative sweeteners affect humans.
“The controversy is, [experts] say, that sometimes these can cause cancer. Granted, the studies that have come out and concluded that were mostly animal studies,” DiMarino says. “But if you have a family history of cancer, or you're going through treatment, you may want to try and be careful how much [alternative sweetener] you use. Because we don't want to contribute to the risk of further cancer.”
Most importantly, DiMarino suggests eating a balanced diet.
“Try and eat whole, high-quality foods that are minimally processed and that are lower in sugar. Use these alternatives and these sugar alcohols sparingly, in moderation,” DiMarino says.