Tagatose is a sugar similar to fructose

Tagatose is a simple sugar (monosaccharide) with the same formula as fructose (C6H12O6) but with a different arrangement of atoms [1]. The exact chemical name is D-tagatose.

Nutritional Facts:

  • Calories per gram = 1.5-2.4
  • Glycemic index (GI) = 3
  • Sweetness, relative to sucrose = 75-92%
  • Net carbohydrates = 3%

Tagatose is an artificial sweetener produced from whey

Tagatose as a food additive is artificially produced from lactose, which is obtained from whey and this from cow’s milk [1].

Tagatose Calories and Net Carbs

Tagatose has almost no effect on blood glucose levels, so it does not contribute to net carbs and should be also distracted from the total carbs. Tagatose provides only 1.5 Calories (kilocalories) per gram (according to food labels in the United States) or 2.4 kcal/g (food labels in European Union), so is considered a low-calorie sweetener  [4]. Tagatose is one of the “allowed” sugars in low-carbohydrate diets.

Absorption and Metabolism

Only about 20% of tagatose is absorbed in the small intestine, the rest passes to the large intestine where it is mostly fermented (metabolized) by beneficial intestinal bacteria into short chain fatty acids (SCFA), which are absorbed [1]. In the human liver, tagatose is metabolized the same way as fructose – it is converted to glucose, which can be then either stored in the form of glycogen or broken down to produce energy  [1].

Taste, Sweetness

Tagatose has a clean, neutral sweet taste, and is 75-92% as sweet as sucrose [1].

Tagatose Properties and Baking

  • A white, odorless, crystalline powder, well soluble in water (160 g/100 mL at 20° C) and poorly soluble in ethanol.
  • Low hygroscopicity – it does not readily attracts moisture.
  • Melting point: 133-137° C (271-279° F).
  • Tagatose is a reducing sugar, which undergoes the Maillard browning reaction with amino acids, so it gives brown color to baked goods.
  • Tagatose undergoes caramelization at temperatures as low as 40° C (104° F).
  • References: [1,5]

Products with Tagatose

Tagatose occurs in small amounts in cooked or sterilized cow’s milk and naturally in apples, pineapples, oranges, raisins and dates.

Tagatose can be used as a sweetener, texturizer, humectant, stabilizer or flavor enhancer in “low-calorie products” or “diet soft drinks,” coffee, yogurts, chewing gum, candies, chocolate, baked goods, frozen dairy products, ready-to-eat cereals, frostings and fillings. It is used as a general-purpose sweetener in South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. It is also used in some toothpastes and mouthwashes. References: [1,5]

Tagatose Safety

In the European Union, tagatose is considered a novel food – a food that was not used in considerable amounts in the EU before y. 1997, so its long-term safety is not known [7]. D-tagatose is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [3]. The World Health Organization’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has left Acceptable Daily Intake for tagatose as “ADI unspecified,” which means even high intakes are not expected to have long-term toxic effects [2].

Tolerance, Side Effects, Dangers

In sensitive individuals, tagatose, when taken in doses higher than 10-15 grams per meal may cause mild digestive problems, such as nausea, flatulence and diarrhea. Doses as high as 45 grams per day can be well tolerated, though. Tagatose is probably not safe to use by individuals with hereditary fructose intolerance (HFI) since it is metabolized the same way as fructose, but accidental intake of small amounts of tagatose from commercial products is not likely harmful. Tagatose does not affect the absorption of fructose in individuals with fructose malabsorption (FM), though. It slightly increases blood uric acid levels, but there is no evidence that it increases the risk of gout. Tagatose does not likely trigger allergic reaction in individuals with milk allergy.

Reference: [1]

Tagatose and Diabetes

  • Tagatose does not significantly raise blood glucose and insulin levels in healthy individuals and those with diabetes 2 [1].
  • Tagatose consumed before a carbohydrate meal attenuates the rise of blood glucose levels after the meal [1]. Tagatose is currently being studied as a glucose-lowering drug for diabetes 2 [6].

Glycemic Index

Glycemic Index (GI) of tagatose is only 3, which means it raises blood sugar levels only by 3% compared with glucose [1].

Tagatose and Dental Caries

Tagatose does not promote tooth decay [1,2].

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is tagatose vegan?

No. Tagatose is produced from whey, which is a milk product.

2. Is tagatose prebiotic?

Tagatose may be considered a prebiotic because it stimulates the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria, which produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), which can be beneficial for the colon lining [1].

3. Does tagatose promote weight loss?

Tagatose has only about 40% of caloric value of sucrose, but there is no evidence that replacement of table sugar with tagatose promotes weight loss.

4. Can tagatose be bad for you?

Except mild digestive problems at higher intakes, no toxic effects of tagatose have been observed so far. Tagatose has also not been associated with cancer or birth defects.

5. Tagatose vs Stevia vs Sucralose

Tagatose has 1.5 Calories (kilocalories) per gram, while stevia and sucralose contain no calories.

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