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Sweeteners

Sweeteners

Sugar alcohols - Are they healthy sweeteners?

Sugar alcohols - Are these healthy sweeteners?

What are they?

Sugar alcohols (a.k.a polyols) are used as sweeteners and bulking agents.    They occur naturally in plant products, such as fruits and berries. As a sugar substitute, they usually provide about 1/2 - 1/3 less calories than table sugar (0.24 - 3 calories / gram, compared to sugar's ~4 calories / gram).

Sugar alcohols prevent browning of heated foods

Metabolism / health effects of sugar alcohols

SA's are slowly and incompletely absorbed from the small intestine into the blood.  SInce SA's are slowly converted to glucose, they have a lower glycemic impact and do not cause blood sugar spikes. However,  eaten to excess they can still affect blood sugar levels and cause weight gain since they still contain some calories;

Possible bloating and diarrhea when eaten in excessive amounts.   Since any non-absorbed SA continues on to the colon, where it is fermented by gut bacteria;

Once absorbed, sugar alcohols require little or no insulin to be metabolized.

Sugar alcohols vs. artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners contain 0 calories, sugar alcohols contain a few calories

Which products typically use sugar alcohols?

Often labeled "sugar-free" , products containing sugar alcohols include:  toothpaste, mouthwash, chewing gum (E.g. Trident® and Extra®  ),  hard candies, cookies, soft drinks, throat lozenges

Unlike sugar, sugar alcohols do not cause tooth decay

The more common sugar alcohols
Sugar
Alcohol
Where found Sweetness
vs. Sugar
Carbs
/g*
Info
Eryrithritol Naturally in pears, melons, grapes, mushrooms and
fermentation-derived foods E.g. wine; soy sauce; cheese
70% 0.24 Almost 0 calories;
Similar texture / bulk to sugar;
Less likely than other SA's
 to cause diarrhea;
Xylitol
"Wood sugar"
Naturally in straw, corn cobs, fruit, vegetables, cereals,
 mushrooms and some grains.
 Used in chewing gums.
100%
(same)
2.4  
Maltitol Sugar-free hard candies, chewing gum,
 chocolate-flavored desserts, baked goods, ice cream
75%   Adds creamy texture
Mannitol Naturally in pineapples, olives, asparagus, sweet potatoes
and carrots. Used in food manufacture
50-70%   Extracted from seaweed;
Often causes bloating / diarrhea
(>20g/day)
Sorbitol Naturally in fruits and vegetables.
Used in sugar-free: gums; candies.
50%   Made from corn syrup;
 less likely SA to cause diarrhea
(>50g/day may cause diarrhea)
Lactitol Sugar-free: ice cream; chocolate; hard and soft candies;
baked goods; sugar-reduced preserves;chewing gums
30-40%   Taste/solubility
like sugar
Hydrogenated
 starch
 hydrolysates

 (HSH)
Used in confections; baked goods; mouthwashes 40-90%   Made by partial hydrolysis of corn;
 does not crystalize
Isomalt Used in hard candies; toffee; cough drops; lollipops 45-65%   Heat stable; absorbs little water

*Sugar contains ~4 calories /g


DISCLAIMER: The content on this website is intended for informational, and educational purposes only and not as a substitute for the medical advice, treatment or diagnosis of a licensed health professional. The author of this website is a researcher, not a health professional, and shall in no event be held liable to any party for any direct, indirect, special, incidental, punitive or other damages arising from any use of the content of this website. Any references to health benefits of specifically named products on this site are this website author's sole opinion and are not approved or supported by their manufacturers or distributors.
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