Tagatose – a low-calories replacement of sugar with pro-health properties

There's no doubt that one of the main factors in nutrition which fosters development of overweight and obesity is excess consumption of refined sugar added to food. Common knowledge about the range of this problem makes people look for the replacements of the popular saccharose, which would give food and beverages sweet taste without threat for health and figure. It turns out, that D-tagatose is one of such substances. It is a low-calorific and safe alternative for sugar with interesting pro-health properties.

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 What is D-tagatose and what are its properties?

Tagatose is a monosaccharide which reminds fructose in its structure. However, unlike other known simple sugars, such as glucose or saccharose, it has low energy value (1.5kcal / g). This property, together with the sweetness similar to that of table sugar, makes it an extremely attractive sweetener. It's worth adding, that tagatose is highly resistant to high temperature and dissolves in water excellently. The users' opinions suggest that this sweetener tastes much better than recently popular stevia. Unlike polyols, such as xylitol or maltitol, tagatose does not cause diarrhoea, flatulence or bloats. In contrast to aspartame, succhralose, acesulfame, cyclaminians and saccharinians, tagatose is of natural origin and there have been no controversies around its use. What's more, there are numerous health properties connected with its use mentioned in available literature.

Pro-health advantages of tagatose

Tagatose isn't well absorbed from the digestive tract (this is the reason for low energy value and extremely low glycemic index). Vast majority of consumed doses of this compound is decomposed in the colon by the bacterial microflora into short chain fatty acids, which are absorbed and metabolised in the system. Research point out that tagatose influences the intestinal ecosystem in a positive way, on the one hand, by promoting the development of good for our health bacteria, and on the other – by limiting the multiplication of pathogenic micro organisms.

Because of the fact, that tagatose itself does not increase the blood glucose, but it may even lower the after-meal glycemia (by lowering the absorption of glucose from the digestive tract), it is recommended to diabetics and people on diet. It's worth adding, that this sugar, unlike saccharose or glucose, is friendly to our teeth. The experiments done on animals proved that this sugar also influences the fertility in a positive way, as well as the development of the fetus. There are also reasons to believe that tagatose may be useful in the treatment of anaemia and haemophilia because it raises the level of erythrocytes and fibrinogen in the blood. All of these factors cause that tagatose seems to be interesting not only for dietitians and people who care about their health, but also – for the pharmaceutical business.

Where can we find tagatose?

Although tagatose is a natural sugar, it would be hard to find its natural sources, apart from a Sterculiasetigera tree, which grows in North Africa. This compound is also present in dairy products, but its content is quite small there. There have appeared some products which contain tagatose on our market, however, there aren't many of them. When the price is concerned, you should pay about Ł4 – Ł7 per 0.5kg. Is it much? It depends on the point of reference you take. It's better to get accustomed to the fact that sweeteners are always more expensive than sugar.

Sources: Diabetes Obes Metab. 1999 Sep;1(5):285-91. D-tagatose, a novel hexose: acute effects on carbohydrate tolerance in subjects with and without type 2 diabetes. Donner TW, Wilber JF, Ostrowski D. · Food Funct. 2013 Aug;4(8):1223-8. doi: 10.1039/c3fo00006k. Beneficial effect of tagatose consumption on postprandial hyperglycemia in Koreans: a double-blind crossover designed study. Kwak JH, Kim MS, Lee JH, Yang YJ, Lee KH, Kim OY, Lee JH · J Med Food. 2002 Spring;5(1):23-36. Tagatose, the new GRAS sweetener and health product. Levin GV.