Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols are one type of reduced-calorie sweetener. You can find them in ice creams, cookies, puddings, candies and chewing gum that is labeled as "sugar-free" or "no sugar added." Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar and have less of an effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) than other carbohydrates.

Examples of sugar alcohol are:

  • Erythritol
  • Glycerol (also known as glycerin or glycerine)
  • hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
  • isomalt
  • lactitol
  • maltitol
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol

Even though they are called sugar alcohols, they do not contain alcohol.

Advantages

Foods with low- or reduced-calorie sweeteners can have fewer calories than foods made with sugar and other caloric sweeteners. That can be helpful if you're trying to lose weight or even to prevent weight gain. These products often times also have less carbohydrate which can be helpful in managing blood glucose levels.

Low-calorie sweeteners are useful for adding extra flavor or sweetness to your food, with few if any extra calories. In addition, these sweeteners are useful for reducing calories and carbohydrates when used instead of sugar in coffee, tea, cereal and on fruit. You can experiment with your own recipes to include low-calorie sweeteners.

Disadvantages

When you're considering foods with low- or reduced-calorie sweeteners, always check the Nutrition Facts on the label. Many of the food products containing these types of sweeteners still have a significant amount of carbohydrate, calories and fat, so never consider them a "free food" without checking the label. By comparing the calories in the sugar-free version to the regular version, you'll see whether you're really getting fewer calories.

You'll also want to compare the fat content of the labels. There is often more saturated and or trans fat in sugar free baked products.

Sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect or other gastric symptoms in some people, especially in children.

Some people prefer to use the regular version of a food and cut back on the serving size instead of buying the sugar-free version. Consider price as well. Sugar-free versions often cost more.

  • Last Reviewed: August 1, 2013
  • Last Edited: May 14, 2014

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