Some sugars used by manufacturers in foods and drinks you buy may be different than what you traditionally think of as sugar, like sucrose or table sugar. These sugars meet the chemical definition of a sugar, but they are metabolized, or used by your body, differently than traditional sugars like sucrose. For this reason, they may not have all of the same effects in the body as traditional sugars, which are associated with an increased risk of cavities, have 4 calories per gram of sugar, and cause an increase in blood glucose and insulin levels after they are consumed. Some sugars that are metabolized differently than traditional sugars are not associated with dental cavities, provide fewer calories, and may lead to lower blood glucose and insulin levels after a meal. Allulose, D-tagatose, and isomaltulose are examples of sugars metabolized differently than traditional sugars that the FDA is aware of that are being used by the food industry.
Certain of these sugars may be treated differently than traditional sugars on the Nutrition Facts label, which lists Calories, Total Carbohydrates, Total Sugars and Added Sugars. For example, allulose must be included in the amount of Total Carbohydrates, but it may not be included on the label under Total Sugars or Added Sugars. Manufacturers also may use a caloric value of 0.4 calories per gram, as opposed to 4 calories per gram for traditional sugars, to calculate how many calories allulose contributes. The FDA has issued a Request for Information to learn more about the various kinds of sugars that are metabolized differently than traditional sugars, what effects they have in the body, and how they should be reflected on the Nutrition Facts label.
Sugars that are metabolized differently than traditional sugars are different from high-intensity sweeteners such as aspartame, which are not chemically sugars. High-intensity sweeteners contribute only a few to no calories when added to food and generally will not raise blood sugar levels. Non-traditional sugars are different than sugar alcohols, another class of sweeteners, as well. Sugar alcohols can be used as sugar substitutes in products such as sugar-free candies, cookies, and chewing gums. Examples include sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, erythritol, and maltitol. Sugar alcohols are slightly lower in calories than traditional sugar and do not promote tooth decay or cause a sudden increase in blood glucose.