Tagatose occurs naturally in dairy products, but the commercial product is manufactured from lactose (milk sugar) by a patented process. It is very similar to fructose in structure.

Tagatose has the bulk of sugar, and is almost as sweet. However, it has only 1.5 calories per gram since less than 20% of ingested tagatose is absorbed in the small intestine. Although tagatose is digested the same as fructose, its limited absorption means that it is metabolized mainly in the large intestine. The short chain fatty acids promote the growth of the two bacteria recognized to improve colon health. Consequently, the prebiotic potential of tagatose is often stressed for the foods using this sugar replacer.

Tagatose was launched in the U.S. in 2003 after the Food and Drug Administration issued a letter agreeing with the manufacturer’s determination that it is a safe food ingredient. Tagatose may be used in foods like soft and hard candies, frozen dairy desserts, cereals, frostings and fillings, and chewing gum.

In 2004 Food Standards Australia and New Zealand issued a warning that people suffering from fructose malabsorption should not eat tagatose.

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