I just read something about a new sugar that may be a breakthrough substitute for the old sugar that has been pilloried of late as the source of all evil. This sugar is called allulose and it is an epimer of fructose. An epimer is a specific kind of a single small molecular difference. So an epimer of fructose means “almost fructose,” and fructose is what it is made from in industrial production. But the little difference may make a big deal.
Allulose, also known as Psicose, is actually not a new discovery, it was discovered in the 1940’s and is present in tiny amounts naturally in wheat, figs, raisins, maple syrup, and molasses. It is 70% as sweet as sucrose and in taste and feel and cooking is very similar. It has less than a tenth the calories of old sugar. The caloric value of allulose in humans is about 0.2 to 0.4 Calories/g, relative to about 4 Calories/g for typical carbohydrates. It also blocks to some extent the absorption of regular sugar in the intestines and so it can lead to gas and diarrhea like acarbose, a medication that also prevents intestinal absorption of sugar that is used sometimes in diabetics to lower the peaks of glucose in the blood after meals. Allulose even has beneficial effects on blood fats.
Allulose is not approved for use in the European Union but here the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently said you can add all the allulose you want to processed foods and it doesn’t count as added sugar. In fact, it doesn’t even count for the labeling for sugar content at all. The FDA had already accepted that allulose is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).
Everybody, especially every little kid, loves sweet stuff. That’s not debatable. And while good old fashioned sugar gets a bum rap these days – sugar consumption is way done while the obesity epidemic continues to rage – sugar does burn up your teeth. It’s great that we may have a new way to feed this human foible without a high cost. We’ll see.
This writer’s opinion is their own and not the opinion of this newspaper
John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- [email protected] or phone-354-6605.