Tagatose: from a sweetener to a new diabetic medication?

Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2010 Feb;19(2):285-94. doi: 10.1517/13543780903501521.


Importance of the field: Tagatose is a naturally occurring simple sugar that is a more palatable bulk low-calorie (1.5 kcal/g) sweetener. It was approved as a food additive by the FDA in 2003. Tagatose has been studied as a potential antidiabetic and antiobesity medication. In preliminary studies in humans, tagatose has shown a low postprandial blood glucose and insulin response. Its proposed mechanism of action may involve interference in the absorption of carbohydrates by inhibiting intestinal disaccharidases and glucose transport. It may also act through hepatic inhibition of glycogenolysis.

Areas covered in this review: This article summarizes tagatose Phase I and II diabetes trials. It describes the pharmacodynamics and possible mechanism of action of this agent. Literature from 1974 to 2009 is reviewed.

What the reader will gain: Better understanding of the implications of postprandial hyperglycemia. An appreciation of the liver as a target of glucose control. Increased awareness of tagatose, a sweetener, as a potential new medication that operates through improvement of postprandial hyperglycemia.

Take home message: Tagatose is currently being studied as a postprandial antihyperglycemic agent that may be safer with regard to hypoglycemia. Ongoing Phase III clinical trials will provide more definitive answers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Glycogenolysis / drug effects
  • Hexoses* / chemistry
  • Hexoses* / pharmacokinetics
  • Hexoses* / pharmacology
  • Hexoses* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / drug therapy
  • Hypoglycemic Agents* / chemistry
  • Hypoglycemic Agents* / pharmacokinetics
  • Hypoglycemic Agents* / pharmacology
  • Hypoglycemic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Sweetening Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Hexoses
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Sweetening Agents
  • tagatose