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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 10 2018

Ultimate Guide to Allulose Sweetener

By Mark Sisson
27 Comments

A few months back, I put Swerve under the proverbial microscope. This time I’m looking at a relative newcomer in the alternative sweetener field. Allulose is quickly growing in popularity, since it’s both naturally occurring and virtually identical to table sugar in taste and texture. Then there’s the claim of sidestepping many of the ill-health effects associated with many other sweeteners.

I know many of you are with me when I bring a sizable dose of skepticism to these kinds of bold proclamations. So, I did my own research, asking whether it’s truly the full-flavor, guilt-free choice many suggest it is. And, if it is (or if it comes close), I wondered, what are its best uses in the kitchen?

What is Allulose?

When it comes down to it, allulose isn’t all that unlike glucose or fructose. The three are all monosaccharides, the simplest form of carbohydrate. Like glucose and fructose, allulose is also naturally occurring—unlike the vast array of artificial sweeteners on the market today. Still, as we know, “natural” doesn’t always mean “healthy.”

Fructose, for example, is synonymous with fruit. Conventional wisdom teaches us that fruit is healthy, but Primal folks are well aware that increasing consumption of fructose is associated with a plethora of health risks from diabetes to cardiovascular disease. And considering allulose has virtually the same chemical makeup as fructose, that might raise some eyebrows.

But chemical legacies aside, there appear to be some key differences between allulose and its monosaccharide cousins. Unlike fructose and glucose, which are found in abundance in the foods we eat, allulose is a very rare sugar that’s hard to find in nature—popping up in only a few foods like wheat, figs, raisins and jackfruit.

Next, allulose (aka psicose) is an epimer of fructose. In essence, this means that while allulose has the same atomic makeup as fructose, it has a minor structural variation. This miniscule difference supposedly has far-reaching effects, however, with preliminary trials showing that around 70% of allulose is excreted in urine and that it has very low fermentability in the gut—meaning you’re less likely to experience gas, bloating, and digestive upset after eating it. (Those who react to other natural alternative sweeteners probably know what I’m talking about here.)

Because so little allulose is utilized by our bodies for energy, the caloric implications from consuming it are supposedly quite minor. While it has 70% the relative sweetness of sucrose (table sugar), it has only 0.3% of the energy. Marketers are calling allulose a “zero calorie” sweetener, and in this case they’re not stretching the truth too much in saying so.

In terms of manufacturing, however, allulose does share another similarity to fructose: it’s primarily produced from corn, along with several other plants. These days, much of the science surrounding allulose is focused on the most efficient enzymatic catalyst for converting fructose into psicose, in order to maximize extraction (and therefore profits).

What Are the Benefits of Allulose?

The notion that a sweetener might have benefits beyond, well, sweetness is nothing new. Xylitol, for example, is a prebiotic that has been shown to balance blood sugar and lower cholesterol, while erythritol (the main sweetener in blends like Swerve) promotes healthy vascular function and good oral health.

Several studies show that allulose is beneficial for those suffering from type 2 diabetes. In a 2015 study, researchers fed diabetic rats with either water containing 5% allulose, or straight water as a control. Sixty weeks into the study, the diabetic rats fed allulose demonstrated “maintenance of blood glucose levels, decrease in body weight gain, and the control of postprandial hyperglycemia” compared to the control group. Significantly, insulin levels were also maintained in the allulose group, while pancreatic cells were preserved.

Other animal studies have produced similarly promising results, with trials showing that allulose administration helps to lower blood sugar levels and minimize insulin secretion following a sugary meal. It also appears to inhibit the tendency to overfeed on sugary foods and to improve insulin resistance over time.

Research in humans is a little thinner on the ground, but those conducted indicate that moderate doses (5 g or more) of allulose have the potential to prevent blood glucose and insulin spikes after eating other sugars. Interestingly, allulose taken by itself, without any other sugars or foods, doesn’t appear to have any effect at all on blood glucose or insulin concentrations.

Interestingly, beyond the hypoglycemic abilities of allulose, there are also reports that it can directly aid in fat loss. In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Food Science, obese mice fed allulose for 15 weeks experienced a reduction in body and liver weights, total fat mass and abdominal visceral fat without any reduction in muscle mass. Another study published in 2016 found that mice on a high fat diet who were fed allulose for 16 weeks experienced significant reductions in body weight and body fat, to the point where there was virtually no difference to the “healthy” control group.

And this year, a study was published showing that high doses of allulose (7g twice daily) resulted in significant reductions in BMI, abdominal fat and subcutaneous fat in overweight humans. This study aside, the jury’s still out on body composition benefits in humans. We’ll see if further studies demonstrate these kinds of results.

Other potential health benefits of allulose include oxidative stress protection, enhanced energy expenditure, and reduced inflammation. While the overall picture looks pretty good, I’ll be watching the continuing research. As always, manufacturers have an interest in encouraging studies that report favorable health benefits. I’m optimistic, but I’m not sold…just yet.

Is It Safe?

For the most part, there’s nothing to indicate that allulose is anything less than safe for humans. For what it’s worth, the FDA considers allulose to be Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), and most studies have noted no significant adverse side effects beyond the usual responses to excessive doses.

A 2015 study that looked at the safety of long-term allulose consumption in rats concluded that it exhibited no dietary toxicity, while a strangely large number of studies in dogs showed that both single dose and long term consumption of allulose caused no harmful effects. At extremely high doses (4g/kg), dogs did exhibit vomiting and diarrhea, but it’d be difficult to consume that level of sweetness for any period of time.

In humans, toxicity tests are once again few and far between, but the general consensus is that allulose is perfectly safe. Longer term study (and longer term consumption of allulose by consumers) will show whether it’s truly side effect free.

What’s the Best Way To Use Allulose?

As an epimer of fructose, allulose tastes virtually the same as the sugars you’ll find in an apple or banana. With the exception of sugar syrups, most allulose is sold in granulated form, meaning you can use it much the same as you would granulated sugar.

Keep in mind, however, that it’s around 70% less sweet than sucrose (table sugar), so you’ll likely need a little more to achieve the same level of sweetness. But, then again, if you’re Primal, you probably don’t crave as much sweetness anyway…so why not start with the same dosage as regular sugar and see how it works for you?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Have you used allulose? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

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27 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to Allulose Sweetener”

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    1. The Cato institute is known for its strong anti government/libertarian bias. That isn’t to say that they make things up, but one should read their work with the understanding that some important facts may be conveniently omitted, while others will be overstated, in the interest of conveying their opinions.

    2. Hi Kevim,

      Thanks for passing this article along! We will take a look at it and pass it along to Mark as well!

      Best,
      Worker Bee

  1. I haven’t used allulose yet, and like Mark I’m always kind of skeptical of this stuff. But I try to remain open. I don’t have a sweet tooth the way I used to, but I am always working on developing healthier treat options for friends as they always seem to be in demand.
    I’ve had a lot of success in baking with the Lakanto brand of monkfruit sweetener. It’s monkfruit extract with erythritol. Just used it to make grain free, sugar free chocolate peanut butter cookies that are pretty amazing.

  2. All U Lose…is the sweet tooth, by getting nowhere near this stuff.

  3. Mark and Elizabeth are both better than me! I like to draw a line in the sand… I believe this is NOT ancestral nor primal and that others dangers lurk beyond the surface.

    We know that our taste for sweets evolved for a reason… if we allow ourselves open access to sweet stuff year round, we artificially change our natural world and there are consequences to this.

    Sure, if you’re perfectly healthy and robust like a bear, you can indulge in poison every now and again and you’ll probably be “fine.” If you’re not, push it away… honor your DNA… honor your ancestors!

    1. I couldn’t agree more!

      I never use alternative sweeteners, either natural or artificial. For one thing, they never taste very good to me. They can also promote a diet that is unhealthily full of sweets. Further, even if they are supposedly “good” sweets, they may exacerbate cravings for some people.

      If I want something sweet, which is almost never, I’ll have a bite or two of something that’s made with real sugar. A couple of bites is enough; I don’t need to eat the whole thing. And it better be out-of-this-world delicious for me to even want it in the first place.

    2. This is a great response. I totally agree. I’d much rather use coconut sugar when I “have” to have something sweet. I know what it is, where it comes from and my body knows what to do with it.

    3. Love this response, especially the line about indulging in poison every now and again. When you call artificial or sugary crap poison people tend to think you’re crazy but it is so true.
      I’m battling with sugar addiction still and I am going to steal your phrase there, “honor your DNA, honor your ancestors” and use it as a mantra to keep me away from the poison. Thank you!

    4. I agree too. For me sugar is addictive, and anything that keeps that fire lit is bad news. Really appreciate all the responses here!

    5. Sustainability is important in becoming “true” to one’s ancestral health. If you were raised with, are prone to, or surrounded by the sad but true reality of partaking in sweet treats as a fact in your life, it’s unrealistic to assume every person will dive in head first and come up as admirably hardcore and sweets-free. This is true especially true if you are transitioning into a more healthful way of eating.

  4. It well could be that benefits seen (weight loss and drop in glucose levels) were as a result of not using other sweeteners and not because the use of allulose.

    1. Valid point!!! I didn’t consider that when I read it. What dis they quit using when they implemented allulose?

  5. Curious what the LD-50 is, yet lazy enough to not research. Odds of me purchasing and using allulose are slim to none, and slim left town. Nevertheless I like new ideas and info.

  6. Thanks, Mark, for sharing another informational post. You always shared various useful information through your blog. The above mentioned Allulose is another alternative to sugar looks healthy. I appreciate your post and recommend others to read this.

    1. Hi Sharlena,

      Glad you enjoyed the article!

      Best,
      Worker Bee

  7. Interesting: this is the first I’ve heard of allulose. Sometimes I feel that our western society is constantly on the hunt for a “healthy” sweetener. It reminds me of my low-fat/high carb days, when I bought Splenda by the case. It was calorie free! (Yikes!) I think sweeteners on occasion are fine for primally adapted folks, but I do worry about the daily use of alternative sweeteners by people with sugar addictions. I know, as a former sugar addict, that the only way to lose my sweet cravings was to give up all sweeteners for an extended period of time. I’ve found the same thing is true for many of my clients. In my experience, taste buds can be totally transformed in about a month of clean, savory eating. It feels amazing to be free from sugar’s power!

  8. BG effects (30-60 minutes postprandial) would, of course, have been studied. But as an epimer of fructose, I’d also like to see TG effects, 3-6 hours postprandial. So, what effect in NALFD?

    And as we lack reliable fine diagnostic tools for microbiome function, what effect it has on either beneficial or adverse microbes might be anyone’s guess at this point.

    But it’s clearly getting into the blood, as most of it is excreted in urine. Is this a completely benign process?

    GRAS? Heck, the FDA thinks seeds of grass are GRAS, too.

  9. I made a cherry pie with allulose and ryze flour for the crust a few days ago – certainly not primal, but not as bad as a standard cherry pie. I replaced all of the added sugar with allulose and nothing else. The pie was excellent. I did a 1:1 replacement, so it was slightly less sweet which I liked. Otherwise, it tasted just like it was sweetened with sugar. In terms of physiological effects, I did notice that I lost some weight over the course of the experiment (3 days) when I was eating the pie. I think this was because the allulose, unlike other sweeteners, fulfilled my hunger, and I ate less overall despite having a diet consisting of 50% pie. I didn’t have digestive disturbances except (tmi warning) softer stools, which I attribute to the hygroscopic effect of allulose. In total, I consumed about .75 cups of allulose over 3 days (body weight 135lb).

    I now prefer allulose to any other sweetener. However, I still have one major concern, which is glycation. Allulose is still a sugar and is chemically reactive, even if we can’t metabolize it. I would be interested to know how quickly it’s excreted through urine, and if a spike in blood allulose levels leads to significant glycation. I’m tempted to say, at this point, that allulose is just like any other sugar in this regard and therefore is not without hazards. Perhaps it would be even more difficult for our bodies to reverse allulose-mediated advanced glycation end products because of its status as an epimer.

  10. just a clarification – is it 70% relative sweetness of sugar or 70% less sweet than sugar? These don’t seem to say the same thing – or is it my misreading of the article?

  11. Thanks, Mark. Good info. I look forward to more articles on it. Here are questions that come to mind:
    Does it contribute beneficial nutrients to the body?
    Is it addictive? People used to use speed to lose weight, too, though I have no clue what it did for insulin control.
    How does bacteria react under it’s influence, what does the gut biome think about it?
    What does it do when combined with gluten, and omega 6 oils vs gluten free food and/or omega 3 oils and healthy saturated fats, and things like sodium benzoate, colorings, and preservatives?.
    How does mental health fair under it’s use and how does it affect the sex hormones and other hormones?
    How will it affect eyesight, hearing, and the ability to taste other food?
    Aside from inflammation, how does it affect the immune system?
    What is its affect on sleep patterns and melatonin production?
    Is it derived from the byproducts of high fructose corn syrup?
    Is it a genetically engineered product?
    Are the enzymes used to produce it genetically modified? Is it being used to prop up a declining industry that is better left to die?
    What are the waste byproducts of the manufacturing process and where do they go?

    1. …And, who funded the research showing health benefits, and did anyone check the author declarations of interest? It smells like product promotion.

    2. Thank you for the feedback, Jeb! We will pass along to Mark!

      Best,
      Worker Bee

  12. I purchased this sweetener and have found it to be the very best I have tasted. I am trying it out in recipes using it cup for cup for sugar or using small amount to sweeten small things. I am a type 2 diabetic and am currently going by the Weight Watchers Freestyle diet. my blood sugars have gone down to normal levels and I have lost 13 pounds over the past 7 weeks. I do exercise but these are the best results I have had. I also use Stevia but the Swerve is so much better tadti g that I am hopeful it is a good product.

  13. Thank-you for a thought-provoking post. Normally I give a wide berth to all ‘artificial’ sweeteners because I don’t like the after-taste, they set off an allergic reaction in my sinuses, and I fear their chemical ‘monstrosity’, but this one has given me pause.

    Because I have a very high BMI, and a very big belly, and probably poor blood glucose/insulin control, I would consider taking this therapeutically to see what would happen.

    7g twice a day in coffee or tea would be easy to do, assuming it is not outrageously-priced (and even if it is, it would be worth it if the results were positive).