by Mila McManus MD
Allulose is a newer type of sweetener additive growing in popularity and showing up in products on grocery store shelves. It is very sweet and does not have an aftertaste, making it very appealing to the food industry. The weight loss and health industries are also interested because allulose is not metabolized as a food substance and bypasses normal digestive processes, suggesting that it may benefit blood sugar levels.
Allulose is sourced from raisins, figs, molasses, and jackfruit where it exists in very small amounts. Those very small amounts are extracted and replicated in the laboratory, and then used in very large amounts in one serving of food. What is safe and small in natural sources is unsafe in lab produced sources and quantities. The very sweet taste of allulose is the result of man engineering it in the lab.
So far, studies are showing allulose causes a host of digestive issues including bloating, distension, nausea, and diarrhea. Alterations in the microbiome of the gut have also been observed as well as alterations in mRNA expression. These results are very concerning if we hope to have healthy gut-brain pathways, digestion, and proper genetic expression, all essential to good health.
The FDA requires that allulose be named in the ingredient list, but not reflected on the Nutrition Label as a form of “sugar”. It is appearing in convenience and processed foods, such as electrolyte powders [Liquid IV recently added it to their sugar free option], protein bars, fat bombs, cookies, and shakes, touted as a healthy alternative to sugar.
Historically, stevia remains the safest non-sugar herbal sweetener. Erythritol and monk fruit have continued to be considered safe and without harmful effects. In very small amounts, cane sugar, maple syrup, and honey are safe, natural choices. Fresh fruit is designed to be a delightful, sweet finish to a meal. Ideally, we want to keep our sweet tastebuds tamed and quiet, rather than overstimulated. We find processed foods, such as allulose, and the foods in which it’s being put, will overstimulate the sweet tastebuds. This makes it difficult to manage sugar cravings and overconsumption. Additionally, maintaining optimal gut function is critical for good health, and allulose may work against that effort.
Taken together, there are many reasons to be concerned about consuming allulose. Until more is known, and based on what we know so far, we do not recommend allulose as a safe choice.
Personal interview with Mira Dessey, The Ingredient Guru, and author of The Pantry Principle (2013).