- Allulose is a rare type of naturally-occurring sugar found in small amounts in wheat and some fruits; it is also commercially produced from corn.
- Allulose is naturally low in calories; it contains 10% percent of the calories of the same amount of table sugar.
- Allulose does not increase blood glucose and does not promote tooth decay.
- Allulose is safe to consume and permitted for use in foods and beverages by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Allulose does not have to be accounted for in the grams of Total Sugars and/or Added Sugars on the Nutrition Facts label. However, it must be counted in the grams of Total Carbohydrate.
News about sugar always makes headlines. In May 2016, big news came from the FDA when it declared that a new line for added sugars information would appear on the updated Nutrition Facts label. Recently, the FDA has made more sugar-labeling announcements, only they weren’t about a type of sugar that you may be familiar with. In April 2019, and again in October 2020, the FDA turned its attention to allulose.
What is Allulose?
Allulose is a lesser-known type of sugar that is found naturally in brown sugar – which contains molasses, maple syrup, molasses, wheat and dried fruits like figs and raisins. Allulose is not as abundant in nature as other sugars, thus it is considered a rare sugar. In a 2021 IFIC survey, only 15% of consumers reported that they had heard of allulose.
Allulose is also commercially produced. New technologies have enabled allulose to be efficiently mass-produced from corn for use a tabletop sweetener and as an ingredient in packaged foods and beverages. Allulose is considered safe to consume and is permitted by the FDA for use in the U.S. food supply.
What Has the FDA Announced About Allulose?
Although allulose may be relatively unknown to consumers, allulose has been on the FDA’s radar since June 2012 when they first permitted its use in the U.S. food supply. Since that time, the FDA has made a few more announcements about allulose.
In the May 2016 Nutrition and Supplement Facts Label Final Rule, the FDA stated that – pending future rulemaking, allulose must be declared on the Total Carbohydrate, Total Sugars and/or Added Sugars line of the Nutrition Facts label. In their final rule, the FDA did not determine a caloric value for allulose. The FDA did, however, apply the standard carbohydrate value of four calories per gram for the purposes of calculating and displaying allulose’s caloric contributions on the Nutrition Facts label.
In April 2019, the FDA issued updated draft guidance for food manufactures, stating that allulose can be counted in the grams for Total Carbohydrate and does not have to be accounted for in the grams of Total Sugars and/or Added Sugars that are declared on the Nutrition Facts label. The FDA also advised food manufacturers to use a value of 0.4 calories per gram for allulose in Nutrition Facts label calculations.
In October 2020, the FDA issued updated guidance reaffirming the April 2019 draft guidance on allulose labeling. The October 2020 guidance was published after completing a review of public comments to the FDA’s April 2019 draft guidance, and a review of the scientific evidence on allulose’s metabolism, caloric value and impact on blood glucose and tooth decay.
Why is the FDA Allowing Allulose to be Listed Differently than Other Sugars?
Based on its independent scientific review of allulose, the FDA concluded that allulose consumption impacts health differently than most other types of sugars. For example:
- Allulose does not promote tooth decay;
- Allulose does not raise blood glucose or insulin levels; and
- Allulose contains 90% fewer calories per gram than sugars like fructose and glucose.
What are Some Pros and Cons to the FDA Allulose Labeling Guidance?
Parts of FDA’s guidance on allulose labeling are easier to understand than others. The most straightforward part is that there is now an established caloric value for allulose – 0.4 calories per gram. With FDA confirming this more appropriate caloric value for allulose, products containing allulose have more accurate total calorie counts than they did before the latest FDA guidance was issued. If consumer demand for allulose grows, allulose could potentially displace sugar in some foods and beverages which may help Americans to continue consuming less added sugar.
However, questions and concerns have been raised related to allulose becoming more commonly used in food products. Some have called for more research to be conducted on potential adverse gastrointestinal effects of consuming a lot of allulose at one time, as well as consuming smaller amounts consistently over the long-term. Another concern has been expressed with respect to carbohydrate counting – a meal planning technique used by people with diabetes that is informed by the grams of Total Carbohydrate listed on the Nutrition Facts label; this is to keep the body’s blood glucose levels under control and guide potential insulin doses. People with diabetes who count grams of carbohydrates for insulin dosing will want to modify their approach when consuming allulose-containing products like they do for products that contain fiber and sugar alcohols. Like fiber and sugar alcohols, allulose does not raise blood glucose levels.
Perhaps the most technical piece of this guidance is that the FDA, starting with this review of allulose labeling, is now considering physiological impacts of sugars, alongside their chemical structure, to determine whether the type of sugar should be listed under Total Sugars or Total Carbohydrate on the Nutrition Facts label. Chemical structure has been the traditional method used by the FDA for such determinations. Allulose is a unique case because its chemical structure is that of a sugar, but its physiological impacts are not like other sugars.
The impact of the FDA guidance on allulose labeling is hard to forecast. How will it affect future food labeling decisions? Will food manufacturers start using more allulose in their products? Will an increased supply of allulose-containing products be equaled by consumer demand? And ultimately, will it help drive added sugar consumption low enough to meet what experts recommend? Stay tuned, only time will tell.
For more information about allulose, including its safety, how it’s different from other sugars and how it’s digested, read our article, “What Is Allulose?”