As discussed in an earlier blog, allulose is the new sweetener on the block, having been introduced to the market in 2015. It offers very palatable sweetness but without the use of sugar or unhealthy, chemically-synthesized sugar substitutes. Further, it is easy on the gastrointestinal tract and provides some positive metabolic effects such as improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, antioxidant activities, and hypolipidemic actions.
For those embarking on ketogenic and low-carb diets, allulose seems like a sweet savior. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had initially confused consumers by requiring that allulose be listed as a sugar in the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels. Lack of name recognition had contributed to the confusion and left consumers to simply assume allulose is another form of sugar because after all, it bears the characteristic suffix “-ose” that identifies all sugars.
The Problem of the Past
Although it was initially thrown into the same camp as sucrose, allulose isn’t biochemically or metabolically similar to sucrose. Allulose is not metabolized by the body and at only 0.4 calories per gram, it possesses only 1/10th the calories of sucrose. Unlike sucrose, allulose does not promote dental decay, nor trigger a normal glucose and insulin response.
Unfortunately, the stipulations of the FDA’s 2016 Nutrition Facts label rule made it impossible to reflect these health benefits of allulose. Instead, allulose had to be included under the “Total Carbohydrate,” “Total Sugars,” and “Added Sugars” sections of the Nutrition Facts label. Further, as an “added sugar,” the caloric value assigned to allulose had to be calculated by the same standard as other added sugars, meaning each gram of allulose in a product had to be reflected as an additional 4 calories, despite the ‘real’ caloric value of allulose. Consequently, these rules had created a dilemma for food and supplement manufacturers who were using allulose as a sweetener in reduced-sugar products such as ketogenic and low-carb products. The labels of these products didn’t accurately reflect the product’s benefits, leaving consumers misinformed. Thankfully, this dilemma was corrected.
A New Solution
On April 17, 2019, the FDA made a historic move by declaring food and supplement manufacturers no longer had to include allulose as a sugar on Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels. Under the new enforcement discretion and guidance, allulose is still listed under the “Total Carbohydrate” section because it bears a similar chemical structure to other sugars, but it can now be excluded from the “Total Sugars,” and “Added Sugars” sections on labels. Further, since allulose is no longer considered an added sugar, the caloric value is not calculated as a traditional sugar. Although it will still be added to the total caloric value of the food or supplement product, the value will be revised to reflect a lower calorie count to more accurately reflect the minuscule caloric value of allulose.
According to the FDA, this decision is a step in revising Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts labels so that consumers can more easily determine the most relevant and useful information. Nutrition labels have been notoriously confusing to most consumers, making many feel as though they need a doctorate degree in nutrition before they can interpret them. Obviously, this lack of clarity hinders consumers from even glancing at nutrition labels and making nutrition-conscious decisions.
Lest anyone mistakenly begin to think that food manufacturers can start including mysterious ingredients in food and supplement products without fully disclosing them to consumers, it is important to note that allulose must still be included on the ingredient list.
Moving forward, it will be important to educate consumers on the health benefits and advantages of allulose – especially (but not exclusively) those committed to following a ketogenic diet. Keto-friendly shakes, bars, and other products supporting a ketogenic lifestyle are beginning to pop up as the demand increases for convenient, keto-friendly alternatives. Therefore, consumers reading ingredients list may wonder at this novel sweetener.