On the plus side, like sugar alcohols, Tagatose does not contribute to tooth decay and, unlike other sugar replacements, Tagatose is favored for baking since it does brown like table sugar.
On the negative side, Tagatose still has the same side effects as sugar alcohols in that it can cause mild to severe digestive upsets and diarrhea. Also, despite claims that it is good for diabetics, Tagatose does have some negative impacts.2
Tagatose has the same formula as fructose, but a different shape. This slight change is supposed to be the sought-after advantage to prevent active transport across the wall of the small intestine, thereby supposedly making it a preferred substance for diabetics. However, about 20% of this monosaccharide is passively absorbed, causing a more dangerous effect than table sugar a disaccharide which cannot be passively absorbed.
The portion that is passively absorbed does metabolize much like fructose, since it has a similar structure. However, combining fructose and glucose to make a disaccharide causes a lower elevation of blood glucose levels than the same amount of glucose alone. Thus, the two sugars are actually better for a diabetic than just one type of sugar or a sugar substitute alone. The reason is that the combined sugars are subject to pyloric control by the pyloric valve at the end of the stomach, while monosaccharides are not.
Tagatose is also being promoted as a prebiotic.3, 4 That is, it ferments in the large intestine to stimulate the production of lactic acid bacteria, thereby reducing the amount of harmful bacteria. Manufacturers are being allowed to make such health claims, while actual healthy nutritional supplements are not allowed the same freedom.
According to Dr. James Bowen, testing for toxic effects of Tagatose has not been as stringent or has taken as long to be approved as it has been for such natural products as Stevia. Stevia, a naturally-occuring sweet leaf is still being refused use as a sugar substitute by the FDA and can be sold only as a dietary supplemen. Stevia has no known side effects, whereas Tagatose has.
Another problem comes in the making of Tagatose. It has 92% of the sweetening power of sucrose and can be found in small amounts as a sugar in milk. To make Tagatose commercially, fungal enzymes are used on the milk sugar, lactose. These enzymes are quite likely genetically engineered,5 since they are already proposed and patented as such.
Naturlose, the commercial name for Tagatose, has been admitted to the GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) list. It can be found in foods and beverages, as well as in cosmetics, toothpastes, and used as an excipient (non-active ingredient) in over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
Another commercial name is Gaio Tagatose, manufactured by Arla Foods, Europe’s largest dairy group in cooperation with the German sugar manufacturer, Nordzucker.
- 1Gaio Tagatose http://www.gaio-tagatose.com/
- 2Dr. James Bowen http://www.wnho.net/tagatose.htm
- 3Tagatose benefits Prebiotic
- 4Gaios ad as a Prebiotic
- 5GE enzymes used to make Tagatose
- The Leafy Lady on Tagatose
- Arla Foods press release http://www.mindfully.org/Food/2003/Gaio-Tagatose-Sweetener7may03.htm
This page was updated in December 2005.