Sugar alcohols are a type
of sweetener used in foods labeled "sugar-free." You'll find them in chewing
gum, sugar-free candies, cookies, soft drinks, and other foods. Sugar alcohols
have about one-half to one-third fewer calories than sugar.
example, if a food label doesn't list sugar as an ingredient, but it has 20
grams of sugar alcohol, that is equal to the calories in about 10 grams of
sugar. If you are counting carbohydrate and there are more than 5 grams of sugar alcohol in the food, you can subtract half the grams of sugar alcohol from the total grams of carbohydrate. For example, if the food has 30 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of sugar alcohol, you can count that food as 26 grams of carbohydrate
Sugar alcohols occur naturally in plant foods in small
amounts, such as berries and fruits. Common names for sugar alcohols are
erythritol, glycerol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and hydrogenated
starch hydrolysates (HSH).
What are sugar alcohols used for?
Sugar alcohols are used to sweeten diet foods. They are also used in chewing gums, toothpaste, and
mouthwash. People who have diabetes eat foods made with sugar alcohols, because
sugar alcohols turn to glucose more slowly and don't cause sudden increases in blood
Sugar alcohols used in chewing gum do not cause tooth
If foods are "sugar-free," does this mean I can eat all I want?
No. Even though the food is "sugar-free," it still has
carbohydrate and calories.
you have diabetes, read food labels closely to find out the amount of
carbohydrate in each serving of food containing sugar alcohol. Sugar
alcohols don't cause sudden spikes in blood sugar, but they do have some effect on
it. Artificial sweeteners, on the other hand, are calorie-free and have no
effect on blood sugar.
Are there risks from eating too much sugar alcohol?
If you eat too much of them, sugar alcohols can cause diarrhea, bloating, and
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerRhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.