Rare sugars: what are they and what can they do for you?


Obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome have become major public health problems with global relevance. To curb this unfortunate epidemiological landscape, balancing energy consumed and expended has become crucial, impelling the industry to innovate and renovate, by reducing sugar, calorie and portion sizes of their food and beverages.1-3

Allulose sugar reduction treats

Leading health organizations, such as the American Heart Association (AHA), the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) acknowledge the value of low- and no-calorie sweeteners (LNCS) to reduce calorie intake as part of an overall healthy diet and physical activity regimen.4,5 This position is based on robust scientific support that has linked LNCS intake to improved weight management6-8, favourable glycaemic response9-13, and better overall health14,15. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a position paper in 2011 concluding that LNCS’s benefits include glycaemic control and oral health.16

Today, new innovative sweetening ingredients are increasingly available to help reduce calories in foods and beverages and are now more frequently found on food labels in countries such as the United States and Mexico. This is the case of the so-called “rare sugars”, new sugar alternatives that provide few, if any, calories, while delivering the same functionalities of sugar, with the potential not only to meet the expectations of but pleasantly surprise the most demanding consumer.

Among rare sugars, allulose stands out. It is a low-calorie sweetening and offers the taste and texture of sugar without all the calories. Allulose can be naturally found in figs, raisins, molasses, maple syrup and can be produced from various sources of carbohydrates (corn, beet and sugar cane). In the US and Mexico allulose is exempt from Total Sugars and Added Sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel.

Allulose has 70% of the sweet taste of sugar, and unlike LNCS which often need to be used in extremely limited amounts and therefore do not provide bulk or texture, allulose can replace sucrose with 90% fewer calories - while keeping typical sugar properties such as caramelizing, browning, texture, and bulk. Allulose is even capable of depressing the freezing point in frozen products like ice cream, a product where sugar was considered near impossible to be successfully replaced until very recently.

The secret behind allulose’s similar taste to sugar is its temporal profile, which is similar to sucrose with a clean and sweet taste. In summary, allulose provides attributes very much like sugar from cane, corn, or beet but with a significantly lower number of calories. From a health standpoint, allulose’s greatest asset lies in the fact that it is absorbed in the small intestine and excreted in the urine without being metabolized.16,17 As a consequence, allulose neither provides significant calories nor increases blood glucose and insulin levels. 18,19

Research indicates that consumers show a strong interest in reducing sugar and calories in their diets and have become more health conscious since the beginning of the pandemic, but taste has driven purchase decisions for decades when it comes to choosing foods and beverages.20 Rare sugars, as an ingredient solution that combines health and pleasure, can play a role in helping to solve for some of the key nutrition challenges we face today.

Renata Cassar, Senior Nutrition Manager for Latin America at Tate & Lyle


1. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Energy, Carbohydrates, Fibre, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2002/2005.
2. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015.
3. Public Health England. Health Matters: obesity and the food environment. March 2017.
4. Gardner C, Wylie-Rosett J, Gidding SS, Steffen LM, Johnson RK, Reader D, Lichtenstein AH. Non-nutritive sweeteners: Current use and health perspectives. Circulation. 2012;126:509-519.
5. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners. 2012;112:739-758.
6. Rogers PJ and Appleton KM. The effects of low-calorie sweeteners on energy intake and body weight: a systematic review and meta-analyses of sustained intervention studies. Int J Obes 2020. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-020-00704-2
7. Laviada-Molina H, Molina-Segui F, Pérez-Gaxiola G, et al. Effects of nonnutritive sweeteners on body weight and BMI in diverse clinical contexts: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev 2020; 21(7): e13020.
8. Katan MB, de Ruyter JC, Kuijper LD, Chow CC, Hall KD, Olthof MR. Impact of Masked Replacement of Sugar- Sweetened with Sugar-Free Beverages on Body Weight Increases with Initial BMI: Secondary Analysis of Data from an 18 Month Double–Blind Trial in Children. PLoS ONE. 2016; 11(7): e0159771
9. EFSA. Scientific opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to intense sweeteners. EFSA Journal 2011, 9(6), 2229. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/j.efsa.2011.2229/epdf
10. Nichol AD, Holle MJ, An R. Glycemic impact of non-nutritive sweeteners: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Clin Nutr 2018; 72: 796-804.
11. Greyling A, Appleton KM, Raben A, Mela DJ. Acute glycemic and insulinemic effects of low-energy sweeteners: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2020; 112(4);1002-1014.
12. Lohner S, Kuellenberg de Gaudry D, Toews I, Ferenci T, Meerpohl JJ. Non-nutritive Sweeteners for Diabetes Mellitus. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2020 May 25;5:CD012885.
13.Noronha et al. Effect of Small Doses of Fructose and Allulose on Postprandial Glucose Metabolism in Type 2 Diabetes: A Double-blind, Randomized, Controlled, Acute Feeding Equivalence Trial. Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism 2018; 1-10
14. Drewnowski A, Rehm CD. Consumption of low-calorie sweeteners among U.S. adults is associated with higher Healthy Eating Index (HEI 2005) scores and more physical activity. Nutrients. 2014; 6(10): 4389-403.
15. Patel L, Alicandron G, La Vecchia C. Low-calorie beverage consumption, diet quality and cardiometabolic risk factor in British adults. Nutrients 2018; 10: 1261
16. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies (NDA); Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to intense sweeteners and contribution to the maintenance or achievement of a normal body weight (ID 1136, 1444, 4299), reduction of post‐prandial glycaemic responses (ID 4298), maintenance of normal blood glucose concentrations (ID 1221, 4298), and maintenance of tooth mineralisation by decreasing tooth demineralisation (ID 1134, 1167, 1283) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal 2011; 9(6):2229. [26 pp.].
17. Williamson P, Schunk T, Woodyer R, et al A single-dose, microtracer study to determine the mass balance of orally administered, C-labeled sweetener in healthy adult men. FASEB. 2014.
18. Iida T, Hayashi N, Yamada T, et al. Failure of D-psicose absorbed in the small intestine to metabolize into energy and its low large intestinal fermentability in humans. Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental. 2010;59:206-214.
19. Iida T, Kishimoto Y, Yoshikawa Y, Hayashi N, Okuma K, Tohi M, Yagi K, Matsuo T, Izumori K. Acute D-psicose administration decreases the glycemic responses to an oral maltodextrin tolerance test in normal adults. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo) 2008; 54:511-514.
20. Hayashi N, Iida T, Yamada T, Okuma K, Takehara I, Yamamoto T, Yamada K, Tokuda M. Study on the postprandial blood glucose suppression effect of D-psicose in borderline diabetes and the safety of long-term ingestion by normal human subjects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2010; 74:510-519.
21. 2020 Food & Health Survey. 2020. International Food Information Council. https://foodinsight.org/2020-food-and-health-survey/. Accessed on August 31st, 2021.

*Not all are approved claims by regulatory agencies. Please check with your local Regulatory and Nutrition team members to learn more

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