Allulose: Everything You Need to Know About this Type of Sugar

31 May, 2021
This article has been written and endorsed by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez
Allulose was first identified in wheat. It's an element that provides a certain sweet taste, but is safe in the short term, being less harmful than table sugar.

Allulose is a sweetener present in some vegetables that has entered the market to replace table sugar and artificial versions. Although it isn’t new as a chemical in itself, it has only recently begun to be marketed in isolation.

Before starting to talk about this element, it must be taken into account that the consumption of sugar in large quantities can be harmful to health. Similarly, the use of artificial sweeteners is not considered completely safe, as it could have adverse effects on the microbiota in the medium term.

What is allulose?

As we mentioned, allulose is a sugar that’s naturally present in certain foods in the plant kingdom, such as wheat, raisins, and figs. It’s characterized by being almost zero caloric, which could be good news for everyone to include in diets that aim to promote weight loss.

This element stands out for not being as common as other carbohydrates that we can find in frequently consumed foods. It’s a monosaccharide that began to be identified in some varieties of wheat, although, later, experts realized that it also existed in certain fruits, as well as in maple syrup.

However, despite the fact that years have passed since its discovery, it wasn’t used in isolation at an industrial level until recently. The fact that science has shown that the intake of table sugar is negative for health, has led to the search for new alternatives to sweeten food in a less harmful way.

On the other hand, the artificial sweeteners used to date are not a very attractive option either. Their short-term safety is guaranteed. However, in the medium term, they’re capable of causing a negative impact on the intestinal microbiota, according to a study published in the journal Nutrients.

Particularities of allulose

In addition to being able to provide a sweet taste, allulose is unusual in that it isn’t metabolizable by the intestine. This is a positive thing, as it doesn’t have a harmful impact on blood glucose levels, this being the main drawback of the simple carbohydrates used today.

At the same time, as it doesn’t interact in the digestive tract, it does not cause alterations in the composition of the intestinal microbiota, something that’s considered harmful to health in the medium term. It must be taken into account that there’s evidence that indicates that the bacteria that inhabit the intestine modulate the proper functioning of the brain and other organs.

In the case of allulose, it should be noted that it’s absorbed from the small intestine, being excreted through the urine. Its water-soluble character facilitates both its own absorption and subsequent elimination.

However, and as we have already mentioned, it doesn’t cause an alteration in blood sugar levels, which could cause diabetes mellitus in the medium term.

It should also be noted that some experts believe that allulose is capable of acting as a protective agent against cavities, as it doesn’t cause enamel erosion nor is it capable of exerting a positive effect on the proliferation of bacteria in the mouth. However, there’s no solid evidence in this regard, at least at the moment.

Allulose can be linked to diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus is related to excessive carbohydrate consumption.

Allulose safety

Allulose can be considered to be safe for health, as its industrial use has already been approved in several countries. At least in the short term, no side effects have been found from the intake of this sugar.

Of course, there are recommended maximum levels that correspond to 0.5 grams of allulose per kilogram of weight per day for men and 0.6 grams of allulose per kilogram of weight per day for women.

Some trials, such as the one published in the Nutrients journal in 2018 , detect some cases of diarrhea or nausea after ingesting doses of allulose close to the recommended upper limit. In this sense, experts recommend the use of sugar with caution, especially in subjects who have a certain predisposition to experience episodes of diarrhea.

On the other hand, it should also be noted that research evaluating the long-term safety of the substance is scarce. For this reason, experts recommend not abusing this ingredient, as there is no 100% guarantee that it won’t produce metabolic effects that are harmful to health.

Allulose and gut microbiota

Most of the criticism regarding artificial sweeteners is focused on their ability to alter the intestinal microbiota. In this sense, allulose seems quite innocuous. There are even certain tests that claim that it could generate a positive effect similar to that of resistant starches, serving as an energy substrate for bacteria.

If such suspicions are confirmed, then its use should be limited in cases of bacterial overgrowth in the proximal intestine. It should also be limited in situations of dysbiosis, as the bacterial growth itself from the contribution of substrate isn’t selective. For this reason, both beneficial and harmful microorganisms can proliferate.

However, and as a positive aspect, it should be noted that there are certain tests carried out in mice that show that allulose could positively interfere with cholesterol metabolism. One of them has been published in the journal Cytotechnology. This concludes that the use of sugar could be effective in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.

Despite this, larger studies in humans are necessary to extend this recommendation regarding its consumption.

Other alternatives to sugar

In addition to allulose, there are other options that can be beneficial to reduce the intake of sugar and glucose in the diet. One of them is stevia, which is considered one of the safest artificial sweeteners, according to research published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Thanks to its caloric nature, stevia could be used in the context of a weight loss diet. This achieves a reduction in energy intake, while ensuring a certain sweet taste of some preparations, which helps control anxiety.

When we talk about a healthy diet, it’s always best to use fresh food, instead of chemical or ultra-processed industrial products. Natural edible products can provide essential and safe nutrients for health, capable of improving the functioning of the human organism.

The solution against being overweight is to have the right diet and good physical exercise

Allulose does not eliminate excess weight.
Regular physical exercise has multiple benefits for the body.

Many people look to sugar substitutes as being the remedy against being overweight. However, this idea is completely wrong. When there’s a problem with body composition, you have to focus attention on lifestyle habits. Of course, a good diet will help to oxidize the excess fat accumulated, but you’ll need to do more than that.

In this sense, physical exercise has proven to be the most powerful tool when the objective is to improve body composition status. Active individuals have a lower risk of developing overweight or obesity, while having a greater facility to burn excess calories accumulated in adipose tissue.

Within the many types of physical activity, it is necessary to concentrate work on strength exercises. These have the ability to increase insulin sensitivity. This reduces the incidence of metabolic pathologies.

In addition, resistance work can also be proposed to increase the total calories consumed during the day.

Allulose and insulin resistance

One of the main problems with the regular consumption of table sugar and some artificial sweeteners is the development of insulin resistance. This process usually leads to the development, in the medium term, of diabetes. This pathology negatively affects the state of health, increasing the risk of suffering from other complex diseases.

Allulose could be a breath of fresh air in this regard. If its medium-term harmlessness on the human body is confirmed, it could be used as a sweetener on a regular basis, thus avoiding the generation of resistance to the hormone derived from increases in blood glucose.

In any case, it must be taken into account that the sweetening power of allulose is considerably less than that of table sugar or that of many of its variants. It will be necessary for the population to gradually get used to less intense sweet flavors.

The change could be drastic at first. This is conditioned, in a way, by the excessive intake of sweets today.

Allulose, a sugar with potential

As discussed, and in the absence of solid evidence, allulose could become a healthy substitute for sugar and sweeteners. However, its viability at an industrial level must also be studied, since the extraction of the element has a cost that will affect the final price of the foods that contain it.

In any case, and despite its potential benefit, it will always be advisable to prioritize the presence of fresh products in the diet, instead of industrial ultra-processed ones. The latter will always have additives in their composition that can be harmful to health in the medium term, as is the case with preservatives.

Even so, as an intermediate step to improve the diet, allulose could have a good application scenario. Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal will be to progressively reduce people’s dependence on sweet foods.

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