With the backlash against processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and food additives that has gained momentum in recent years, the search for natural sweeteners has gained renewed steam. This means that, in addition to many sugar substitutes people may be familiar with, there are now other options that are less well-known. This is certainly the case for allulose, a naturally occurring sugar found in fruits like figs and raisins.
Looking for a sugar substitute that caramelizes like real sugar, has the mouthfeel we are accustomed to, and lacks the aftertaste associated with other sweeteners like xylitol or stevia can seem daunting. Though allulose is a promising candidate by these metrics, there are reasons some people may have trouble with this alternative sugar.
The sugar consumed most often by people in western societies is sucrose. This monosaccharide is far from the only sweetener available, though. The natural world and modern chemistry have provided many sugar substitutes for those looking to avoid the traditional downsides of sucrose including a naturally occurring but rare sugar known as allulose. Found in raisins and figs, this sugar is gaining interest since it is not metabolized by the body.
Sugar alternatives like allulose have a trick up their sleeve in that they are not metabolized by the body. Many sugar alcohols such as xylitol or erythritol are not absorbed by the body, and as such are not converted into caloric energy your body can burn. Allulose is slightly different in this regard, as it is absorbed by the small intestine, but your body cannot process it further and simply excretes this rare sugar.
The fact that allulose is not readily used by the body makes this sweetener a popular sugar substitute for people on strict no-carb diets such as the keto diet. This is great news for people sticking to this diet, as there are relatively few zero-calorie, keto-friendly sweeteners that can give you the sweet taste of real sugar without pulling your body out of ketosis by introducing carbohydrates into your diet.
The saying that “there is no free lunch” applies to sugar as much as anything, though. There are some downsides to this sweetener you should be aware of that might make you think twice about adding too much allulose to your diet.
Like other simple sugars, such as fructose and galactose, regular sugar is readily converted by the body into glucose, and consuming this metabolically cheap energy source can lead to a spike in blood sugar. This will increase insulin production as your body tries to store any energy it can’t use immediately. Since allulose is not easily processed by your body, your blood sugar levels remain lower after you consume it, potentially helping to temporarily lower your blood sugar after meals.
Getting the sweet taste you are looking for without the caloric penalty may sound like a great deal, but there can be a downside to this sugar substitute. Introducing allulose—or any calorie-free sweetener—into your diet can result in side effects such as bloating, abdominal pain, and issues going to the bathroom. The inability of your small intestine to break down or process alternative sugars can give rise to extra gas production, and might even create a potentially dangerous condition known as osmotic diarrhea.
Allulose has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), receiving the designation of “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS. This designation means that consuming appropriate amounts of this low-calorie sweetener will not likely cause you any harm, but you should still exercise caution.
Everyone reacts differently to sugar and sugar alternatives. For individuals with type 2 diabetes or other insulin sensitivity issues, there can be significant health benefits to maintaining a low-carb diet and cutting traditional sugars in favor of zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia (commonly known as Splenda®). Despite these benefits, caution should be exercised at first when introducing allulose into your diet. Starting slowly and evaluating how well your body tolerates this alternative sweetener can save you from some of the unpleasant effects some people experience when switching from sugar.
There are some people who should use extreme caution when testing out alternative sweeteners. Individuals who have undergone bariatric surgery, such as a gastric bypass, can be at risk of severe dehydration or malnutrition if they suffer from even mild gastrointestinal disruptions. Osmotic diarrhea, caused by consuming some sugar alcohols, can draw water from your body into your digestive tract as your intestines try to process this sugar. With the reduced stomach volume bariatric surgery provides, it can be very difficult to replenish lost liquids.
If you are trying to control your body weight or fight off the effects of obesity, then managing your blood glucose is a great way to lower insulin levels and prevent your body from trying to store energy as fat. This means replacing table sugar with small quantities of stevia, allulose, or other alternative sweeteners, but this is only part of the picture.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, reducing stress when possible, practicing good sleep hygiene, and getting an appropriate amount of exercise are all part of the picture when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off for the long term.
Simply swapping out the traditional sugar and still going for treats like ice cream is not a great weight loss strategy, but as part of a larger effort to lose weight, adding low or zero-calorie sweeteners into your diet can help. It is best to seek medical advice whenever you are making major changes in your diet, so if you are working with a dietitian or nutritionist, be sure to ask if they think allulose is right for you.
Whether or not a particular sweetener is right for you, losing weight and keeping it off is a huge commitment, especially if you have been diagnosed with obesity. For some people, even traditional dieting and exercise are not enough to see the changes they are hoping for. In these cases, more aggressive interventions may be required. This could include weight loss medication, procedures such as gastric ballooning, or even an endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty.
If you are interested in learning more about how True You can help you find freedom from excess body weight, request a consultation today. Freedom is waiting.