FDA invites comment on nutrition labeling of sugars that are metabolized differently than traditional sugars

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture credit: Gettyimages-Goran13
Picture credit: Gettyimages-Goran13

Related tags: Added sugar, isomaltulose, D-tagatose

The FDA – which recently said allulose does not have to be listed as added or total sugar on food labels – is now inviting comment on whether other sugars that are not metabolized in the same way as traditional sugars (such as isomaltulose and D-tagatose) should also be treated differently for the purposes of nutrition labeling.

In a request for comment​,​ the agency notes that, “Some sugars (e.g., allulose, D-tagatose, isomaltulose) do not have all of the same effects in the body as traditional sugars.

"Because of that, we have received multiple requests from industry to treat these sugars that are metabolized differently than traditional sugars as distinct from traditional sugars for purposes of nutrition labeling.

“We are interested in learning more about the kinds of sugars that are metabolized differently than traditional sugars and that are used in foods, any distinct physiological effects in the body caused by those sugars, and how we should treat those sugars for purposes of food labeling."

Factors that might be relevant include the pH of dental plaque after consumption, caloric value, and glycemic and insulinemic response, adds the agency.

BENEO: 'Not all sugars are the same in their physiological effects'

Anke Sentko is VP regulatory affairs & nutrition communication at BENEO, which makes isomaltulose (which it sells under the brand name Palatinose​).

A disaccharide manufactured by the enzymatic rearrangement of sucrose from beets, Palatinose has 4 calories per gram like regular sugar, but does not have the same impact on insulin and blood sugar, so has a lower glycemic index and is digested more slowly.

Welcoming the FDA's request for comments, Sentko told FoodNavigator-USA: "Due to today’s public health policy direction, all mono- and disaccharides (sugars) are regarded as 'bad for you' and thus should be reduced and replaced. All oligo- and polysaccharides are regarded as good for human nutrition. This classification based on food chemistry is not justified as not all sugars are the same in their physiological effects, and it is physiology that counts if health should be supported...

Sugars such as isomaltulose 'need to be excluded from the 'total sugars' and 'added sugars' definition and counted as neutral carbohydrates'

She added: "It’s the physiological carbohydrate quality that matters. A carbohydrate that is available to the body and is digested slowly, leading to a low blood glucose response and low insulin response and allows for fat oxidation in energy management is a carbohydrate of good physiological quality, no matter if it is a monosaccharide, disaccharide, oligosaccharide or polysaccharide.

"If on top it is not used as substrate by oral microorganisms, confirmed by an FDA approved health claim, this sugar has a quality bonus on top. BENEO is addressing its disaccharide isomaltulose here.

"In a food labelling system that singles out sugars from total carbohydrates and stipulates sugars as bad, those sugars that are not bad need to be excluded from the 'total sugars' and 'added sugars' definition and counted as neutral carbohydrates."

Read more HERE​. Stakeholders have 60 days to provide comments.

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