Still Life with Sugar Bowl and Hyacinth in a Glass

Loading Up on Sugar That’s Not Sugar

Brace yourself for sugar 2.0. Processed food makers are loading up on sugar that’s not sugar. The push to drive added sugar out of the food supply means that allulose – a rare, but natural form of sugar – is suddenly popular with the industry. It helps that food companies can add this sugar to their products to make them sweeter, but it won’t count as added sugar. A sweet trick indeed.

FDA Opens the Door to a Boom

FDA set the stage for this in the fall. That’s when the agency finalized rules for allulose on food labels. The new Nutrition Facts label calls out added sugars so that consumers can avoid them. Recent consumer research from IFIC tells us that people are looking closely at both total sugars and added sugars. Either way, allulose doesn’t count. It might be a sugar, but it has one tenth of the calories as sucrose and companies don’t have to include it in the Nutrition Facts label.

Thus manufacturers can add all the allulose they want to sweeten that cereal and tell consumers that it has no added sugar and no artificial sweeteners. So it’s no wonder the industry is loading up on this sugar that doesn’t count as sugar. Tate & Lyle makes allulose and cannot presently keep up with the demand. A company spokesperson says:

“We are currently seeing a huge increase in demand for allulose and are seeking to ramp up production to meet this demand.”

For now, though, the demand is outsripping supply.

What Effects?

So the food supply will soon be loaded with allulose. Grocery shelves will offer sweet, tasty processed food with no added sugars and no artificial sweeteners.

Clearly this will have an effect on the healthfulness of the food supply. Perhaps it will be good. But it’s worth remembering that allulose is not inert. It lowers the glycemic response to a meal, which might be good. It might have effect on the microbiome and other metabolic parameters.

However, the truth is that we’re embarking on an experiment with the food supply. The effects will only be known when we see them – if we can recognize them – across the population.

One thing is for sure, though. Companies are loading up on allulose because they think it will make their products more desirable. So consumers will buy more and ultimately eat more. This may well be one more step in the evolution of an obesogenic food supply.

Click here for more about the soaring demand for allulose and here for more about its metabolic properties.

Still Life with Sugar Bowl and Hyacinth in a Glass, painting by Paula Modersohn-Becker / WikiArt

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May 15, 2021