Tagatose: A Natural Sweetener and a Diabetes Lifesaver?

Is it possible that something you’ve been eating everyday could suddenly add more benefits to your health than you ever imagined? It’s hard to believe, especially because we are talking about a sweetener. If you have diabetes, the sweetener tagatose may be the next thing to keep your eye on. It’s making headlines and here’s why.

What is Tagatose?

Tagatose is a natural derivative of the sugar molecule fructose; it’s found in powdered milk, hot cocoa, some cheeses and yogurt. Tagatose was also used as a sweetener in diet Pepsi slurpees. It has been regarded as safe for use in food and beverages for many years, and usually sold under the brand name Naturlose. Unlike sugar which provides 4 calories per gram, tagatose provides 1.5 kcal/g. It was originally marketed to be used as a low-calorie sweetener, because unlike other sugar molecules it is only partially metabolized (broken down) by the body. Therefore, it doesn’t have the same hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) effect on blood sugar levels as other sweeteners. But now it looks like tagatose may take on a new and improved role.

What’s Behind the Tagatose Hype?

A recent study published in the journal of Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism in February 2008 found that tagatose has the ability to lower post-meal blood sugars and elevated insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes. There has also been a study that showed positive results for tagatose being able to promote weight loss and improve HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels. In addition to all the above, tagatose has also been credited as an antioxidant (protects cells) and a prebiotic (helps with digestive). For people with type 2 diabetes, tagatose could hold the key to better diabetes management and overall health. A word of caution, though: tagatose does have a side effect. It has been reported to cause upset stomachs in some people.

The Bottom Line

Well, tagatose’s future looks bright! So far it is believed to be the only new product that lowers blood sugar and improves cholesterol levels, and it doesn’t hurt that it also has antioxidant, anticariogenic (anti-cavity) and pro-digestive abilities. More clinical studies on tagatose are currently underway and results from these trials may be in as soon as the middle of this year. If all goes well tagatose could be used in new diabetes medications and also become the sweetener of choice for people with diabetes. Keep your eyes peeled.

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