Sugar Alcohol: Types, Benefits, And Risks
Sugar alcohols are used as a substitute for sugar in certain foods, particularly those that are labeled "sugar-free" or "no added sugar." As consumption increases, it is important to look at the potential health benefits and risks of sugar alcohols. In this article, we examine whether or not sugar alcohols are good for you. We look at the potential benefits and risks, as well as the different available types. Sugar alcohols, such as xylitol, may provide fewer calories than sugar. In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that added sugar provided around 14.1 percent of calories consumed by children and adults in the United States from 2003 to 2010. There are possible connections between the consumption of added sugar and certain health conditions, including obesity , diabetes , and heart disease . As a result, many people are searching for ways to decrease the amount of added sugar they consume. Choosing foods sweetened with sugar alcohols may help. Sugar alcohols also provide fewer calories than sugar, so they may be beneficial for people trying to lose weight by reducing their calorie intake. Another possible benefit of sugar alcohols is related to how the body processes them. They are not fully absorbed and digested by the body, so they result in less of an increase in blood sugar. Foods sweetened with sugar alcohols may allow people with diabetes to maintain better blood sugar control while still enjoying sweet treats in moderation. Sugar alcohols also offer potential benefits for oral health. Bacteria that live in the mouth do not feed on sugar alcohols, so they do not cause tooth decay like regular sugar. Consuming large amounts of sugar alcohols could result in gas, diarrhea , or other digestive issues. As mentioned ab Continue reading >>
What Are Net Carbs?
I have type 1 diabetes, and my son recently gave me a package of sugar-free hard candy that was labeled "0 net carbs." The back of the package said, "To calculate net carbs, subtract the sugar alcohols from the total carbs in the product, because sugar alcohols have minimal impact on blood sugar." I am concerned and confused about this labeling. Continue reading >>
Can Diabetics Eat Sugar Alcohol?
Cutting back on sugar doesn't have to mean going without sweets. A new brand of naturally-sourced sweeteners is popping up in foods that can soothe your sweet tooth without causing surges to your blood sugar. These misleadingly named "sugar alcohols" are relatively safe for everyone, including diabetics; however, they are not risk-free. If you have diabetes, you need to monitor your sugar alcohol intake, and consume them in moderation. Video of the Day Despite their name, sugar alcohols contain neither sucrose nor ethanol, which are commonly referred to as sugar and alcohol. Sugar alcohols occur naturally in foods such as fruits and berries, and are often added to processed foods as sugar substitutes. Sugar alcohols add sweetness, bulk and texture to foods. They also help food stay moist and add a cooling sensation. They're found in a wide variety of products, from chewing gum to candy, baked desserts, energy bars and chocolate. Sugar Alcohols Vs. Artificial Sweeteners Artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, or Sweet N Low, and aspartame, or NutraSweet, which are often used as tabletop sugar substitutes, have zero calories and no carbohydrates. Sugar alcohols, on the other hand, contain about 2.6 calories per gram and a small amount of carbs. Both are considered generally safe for use by diabetics, but the American Diabetes Association says sugar alcohols should not be eaten in excess. Even for people without diabetes, sugar alcohols can cause bloating, gas and a laxative effect that might cause loose stools and diarrhea. The FDA regulates both artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, and has approved several as safe for consumption. If you are watching your carb intake as part of your diabetes management regimen, it's important to understand sugar alcohols' effects o Continue reading >>
Eat Any Sugar Alcohol Lately?
If you've looked lately at the "Nutrition Facts" panel on a pack of sugar-free gum or candy, you might be surprised to see that it contains "sugar alcohol." Don't let the name fool you. These ingredients were given this consumer-friendly name because part of their structure resembles sugar and part is similar to alcohol. Not One in the Same Don't be confused. Although they share a similar name, sugar alcohol and alcoholic beverages do not have the same chemical structure. Sugar alcohol does not contain ethanol, which is found in alcoholic beverages. What is Sugar Alcohol? Sugar alcohols, also know as polyols, are ingredients used as sweeteners and bulking agents. They occur naturally in foods and come from plant products such as fruits and berries. As a sugar substitute, they provide fewer calories (about a half to one-third less calories) than regular sugar. This is because they are converted to glucose more slowly, require little or no insulin to be metabolized and don't cause sudden increases in blood sugar. This makes them popular among individuals with diabetes; however, their use is becoming more common by just about everyone. You may be consuming them and not even know it. Identifying Them Common sugar alcohols are mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH). Sugar alcohols are not commonly used in home food preparation, but are found in many processed foods. Food products labeled "sugar-free," including hard candies, cookies, chewing gums, soft drinks and throat lozenges often consist of sugar alcohols. They are frequently used in toothpaste and mouthwash too. Check Carbohydrates So why are sugar alcohols used so often? For one thing, they help to provide the sweet flavor to food in many products marketed t Continue reading >>
What Are The Effects Of Sugar Alcohols?
I am confused about the effects of sugar alcohols. How do I figure them into my daily sugar intake? — Penny, Ohio Sugar alcohols (polyols) are carbohydrates that occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables. They are also made by food manufacturers from starches, glucose, and sucrose, and are commonly added to foods. Corn syrup is most commonly used to make polyols. Sugar alcohols have a couple of properties that make them attractive for people who would like to reduce their carbohydrate intake but still enjoy sweets. Here are a few things to remember: First, polyols are slowly and not completely absorbed from the gut. This reduces the quantity of carbohydrates the body absorbs and converts into glucose in the bloodstream. Second, most polyols have fewer calories than table sugar. The most common polyols are: Sorbitol (2.6 calories per gram) Maltitol (2.1 calories per gram) Lactilol(2 calories per gram) Erythritol (0.2 calories per gram) Isomalt (2 calories per gram) Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (3 calories per gram) Mannitol (1.6 calories per gram) Xylitol (2.4 calories per gram) Maltitol syrup (4.32 calories per gram) These substances have been used extensively by food manufacturers to make sugar-free and reduced-carb products. Their texture and feel can help make artificial sweeteners palatable, and they're often used as bulking agents. They are found in sugar-free candies, chewing gum, desserts, baked goods, chocolates, and ice cream. They're also found in some over-the-counter medications, including throat lozenges, cough syrup, and chewable vitamins. Many diabetics, in their efforts to reduce their carbohydrate consumption or lose weight, have turned to reduced-sugar, sugar-free, or low-carb food products. Although polyols can raise after-meal sugar levels, Continue reading >>
What Is Sugar Alcohol Does It Contain Carbs?
If you have diabetes , you are likelya pro at reading food labels checking carbohydrates is second nature.But what aboutproducts that use sugar alcohol as a sweetener ? Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy This ingredient is increasingly popular in diabetes-friendly foods in the grocery store, but is it good for you? Heres what you need to know. Sugar alcohols, which occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, have a slightly deceptive name: They dont contain either alcohol or sugar (though they sometimes come fromdifferent types of sugar). Food manufacturers use the sweetener to reduce the amount of calories in a product while still providing sweetness. Unlike sugar, which has about 4 calories per gram, sugar alcohol has just over 2 calories per gram. Youll often find it in baked goods and sugar-free gum. Sugar alcohol converts to glucose more slowly than carbohydrates from thingslike honey, bread, rice and alcohol. It requires almost no insulin for metabolizing and doesnt cause sudden blood sugar spikes. Sounds good so far, but is there a catch? Sugar alcohol is generally considered safe for consumption. There are, however, importantthings to keep in mind. 1. Its not a good idea tobinge on it.Even though labels on products sweetened with sugar alcohol say they are diabetes-friendly or sugar-free, they still contain carbohydrates.They can raise your blood sugar. And, you can also still gain weight when eating foods that contain sugar alcohol, especially if you eat them in excess. 2. It tends to have a laxative effect, particularly in children and people with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome ). Instead of being fully absorbed in the sto Continue reading >>
Sugar Alcohols: Good Or Bad?
For many decades, sugar alcohols have been popular alternatives to sugar. They look and taste like sugar, but have fewer calories and fewer negative health effects. In fact, many studies show that sugar alcohols can actually lead to health improvements. This article takes a detailed look at sugar alcohols and their health effects. Sugar alcohols (or "polyols") are types of sweet carbohydrates. As the name implies, they are like hybrids of sugar molecules and alcohol molecules. Despite the "alcohol" part of the name, they do not contain any ethanol, the compound that gets you drunk. Sugar alcohols are safe for alcoholics. Several sugar alcohols are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. However, most are produced industrially, where they are processed from other sugars, such as the glucose in corn starch. Sugar alcohols look like white crystals, just like sugar. Because sugar alcohols have a similar chemical structure as sugar, they are able to activate the sweet taste receptors on the tongue. Unlike artificial and low-calorie sweeteners, sugar alcohols do contain calories, just fewer than plain sugar. Sugar alcohols are types of sweet carbohydrates that are found naturally or processed from other sugars. They are widely used as sweeteners. There are many different sugar alcohols that are commonly used as sweeteners. There are several differences between them, including their taste, calorie content and health effects (1). Xylitol Xylitol is the most common and well-researched sugar alcohol. It has a distinct mint flavor, and is a common ingredient in sugar-free chewing gums, mints and oral care products like toothpaste. It is about as sweet as regular sugar, but has 40% fewer calories. Aside from some digestive symptoms when consumed in large amounts, xylitol is well Continue reading >>
Counting Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols are still a form of carbohydrate. When counting carbohydrates for products made with sugar alcohols, subtract half of the grams of sugar alcohol listed on the food label. Some Nutrition Facts labels may also list sugar alcohols under total carbohydrate. Sugar alcohols may be found in products that are labeled “sugar-free” or “no sugar added.” This can include sugar-free candies, chocolate, and energy bars. But don’t be fooled – sugar alcohols are still a form of carbohydrate, and they still affect your blood sugar levels, if not as dramatically. Understanding Sugar Alcohols Examples of sugar alcohols include: Sorbitol Xylitol Mannitol Isomalt Maltitol Lactitol Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates Here’s what you need to know: Because sugar alcohols are hard for the body to digest, the effect on blood sugar levels is less than standard sugar. When counting carbohydrates for products made with sugar alcohols, subtract half of the grams of sugar alcohol listed on the food label from the total grams of carbohydrate. Remember that because sugar alcohols are harder for your body to digest, eating too many sugar alcohols may cause digestive complaints like gas, cramping and diarrhea. Now let’s practice using the sample food label shown here: The amount of sugar alcohol is 18 grams per serving. Calculate half the grams of sugar alcohol (18 grams of sugar alcohol divided by 2 equals 9 grams). Subtract only half of the grams of sugar alcohol from the total carbohydrate Count this product as 20 grams of carbohydrate (29 grams total carbohydrate minus 9 grams sugar alcohol equals 20 grams of carbohydrate). When counting carbohydrates, include half of the sugar from the sugar alcohol. Self-assessment Quiz Self assessment quizzes are available for topics co Continue reading >>
Sugar Alcohols Can Raise Blood Glucose Levels
Sugar Alcohols Can Raise Blood Glucose Levels Sugar Alcohols Can Raise Blood Glucose Levels Most of us whove been living with diabetes for a while know that eating foods with sugar alcohols can lead to stomach upset. What a lot of us dont realize is that sugar alcohols are not free foods. Its true that they have fewer calories than sugar, and they arent likely to cause a quick surge in blood sugar levels. But theycanraise blood glucose levels, and unlike with sugar, for which you can predict the blood glucose spike and bolus for it, in the case of sugar alcohols, its very difficult to know what to expect. To calculate the amount of carbohydrate in a product containing sugar alcohols, the America Diabetes Association recommends the following: If a food has more than 5 grams of sugar alcohols, subtract 1/2 the grams of sugar alcohol from the amount of total carbohydrate, then count the remaining grams of carbohydrate. For example, if a granola bar has 15 grams total carbohydrate, with 6 grams of sugar alcohol, then one bar counts as 12 grams of carbohydrate (15-3=12). While this calculation in itself is fairly straightforward, in our experience, getting it right with sugar alcohols pretty much never happens. In Mikes experience, he always has high blood sugar after consuming sugar alcohols. Dont ever let me eat this stuff again, he says. But then along comes a holiday or celebration that involves dessert and out comes the ice cream sweetened with a sugar alcohol. The worst part, Mike says, is that hes unsatisfied after a sugar alcohol dessert, so just having a few bites of regular dessert would probably be a better and more satisfying choice. With sugar alcohols, as with many other foods, the blood glucose response varies from person to person. Some people may do very we Continue reading >>
How Natural & Artificial Sweeteners Affect Blood Sugar
I have wanted to write a post about sweeteners for a while now. Mainly because I get a little frustrated when reading or hearing outright incorrect claims about how some of the natural and artificial sweeteners affect your blood sugar. As a person with diabetes, I want to know exactly what will happen to my blood sugar when I eat or drink something, and I don’t take kindly to half-true marketing claims. I’ve decided to focus on how natural & artificial sweeteners impact blood sugar rather than on whether they are healthy or not, since I think that is somewhat out of my domain and because plenty of others have already covered that. What are natural & artificial sweeteners? FDA defines sweeteners as: “…commonly used as sugar substitutes or sugar alternatives because they are many times sweeter than sugar but contribute only a few or no calories when added to foods”. This means that regular sugar, honey, and Agave nectar/syrup don’t fall into the sweetener category. However, I do want to address these shortly before moving on to the real artificial sweeteners, since I’ve seen claims of how honey and agave won’t impact blood sugar in the same way as sugar. Honey and agave nectar Let’s start with honey because, let’s face it, it’s sugar in liquid form. It’s delicious, but an October 2015 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that when subjects were given honey, cane sugar, or high-fructose corn syrup, they saw no notable difference in blood sugar increase. As for agave, I think that the corporate marketing machine has been very clever when declaring this a health food, for as Dr. Jonny Bowden points out“..It’s basically high-fructose corn syrup masquerading as healthy food.” Agave nectar may have a lower glycemic index than sugar or honey, but Continue reading >>
Sugar-free Labels Can Be Deceptive
The only thing I thought I knew about diabetes in the beginning was that I was not supposed to have sugar anymore. Other than that I was completely ignorant. The idea of never eating another chocolate-covered almond threw me into a real pity party. Then one day I was standing at the pharmacy counter waiting for a prescription. Looking around I saw rows of candy with “sugar free” in big letters on the packages. People with diabetes could still have candy? Wonderful! I grabbed a chocolate bar and stuck it in the bag with my diabetes medicine. That candy bar did not make it home. I ate it in the car. It was delicious, with no bitter aftertaste and no guilt. If you have tried sugar-free candy, you know what happened later. In a few hours I had awful stomach pains and gas. My first thought was, “what is diabetes doing to me now?” The problem was not diabetes. It was maltitol. Maltitol and sugar-free labels Many of us with diabetes have learned the hard way about sugar alcohols like maltitol. These modern sweeteners are usually made from sugar by fermentation or chemical reactions. Because it is no longer considered sugar, maltitol can be added to things like candy and other desserts to make them “diabetes friendly.” The makers can claim their product is sugar free. Sugar alcohols are popular because they have no bitter aftertaste like most other artificial sweeteners. But I’ve stopped buying sugar-free candy with maltitol. Here is why: At 2.1 calories per gram, maltitol has a little over half the calories of sugar (which is 4 calories per gram). But maltitol syrup has a glycemic index of 52, which is not that much better than table sugar’s glycemic index of 60. What does that mean to you? Your pancreas perceives maltitol as sugar, raising your insulin needs. Continue reading >>
Slideshow: Diabetes-friendly Drinks And Cocktails
Drink in Moderation Most people with diabetes can enjoy some alcohol. Rules are the same as for everyone else: one drink per day for women; two for men. But you need to know how alcohol affects your blood sugar. A sugary drink might spike your blood sugar. But if you drink on an empty stomach or take certain meds, your levels could swing too low. A 12-ounce beer has about 15 grams of carbohydrates, compared to 3 to 6 grams in light beer. Also, “light” and “low carb” are pretty much the same thing -- and also your best bet. Be careful with craft beers. Most have twice the alcohol and calories as regular beer. Some research says wine (red or white) may help your body use insulin better and may even make you less likely to get type 2 diabetes in the first place. It may also have heart benefits, to boot! Moderation is the key as too much alcohol can cause hypoglycemia. A standard 5-ounce serving has about 120 calories, nearly all of which come from alcohol, not carbs. Recipes vary, but depending on the fruit and juices involved, this drink may have as much sugar as a regular soda. Instead of sangria, go with one glass of dry red or white wine. Those only have about 4 grams of carbs. Avoid sweeter varieties, like flavored wines and dessert wines. One ounce of liquor, depending on the proof, has about the same amount of alcohol as 5 ounces of wine. While liquor is often carb-free, mixers like soda and juice can send blood sugar levels through the roof. To prevent a spike, mix your liquor with a calorie-free drink like water or seltzer. Sweet drinks like margaritas and mojitos don’t have to be off-limits. Use sugar-free mixers for margaritas and fresh fruit for daiquiris. And instead of pouring simple syrup into mojitos and martinis, try a natural sweetener like stev Continue reading >>
What Are Sugar Alcohols?
The sugar alcohols commonly found in foods are sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates. Sugar alcohols come from plant products such as fruits and berries. The carbohydrate in these plant products is altered through a chemical process. These sugar substitutes provide somewhat fewer calories than table sugar (sucrose), mainly because they are not well absorbed and may even have a small laxative effect. Many so-called "dietetic" foods that are labeled "sugar free" or "no sugar added" in fact contain sugar alcohols. People with diabetes MISTAKENLY think that foods labeled as "sugar free" or "no sugar added" will have no effect on their blood glucose. Foods containing these sugar alcohols need to have their calorie and carbohydrate contents accounted for in your overall meal plan, as it is carbohydrate that raises bloodglucose levels. Since many people typically overeat "sugar free" or "no sugar added" foods, their bloodglucose may be significantly elevated. So the next time you pick up a dietetic food labeled "sugar free" be sure to check the label to see if these sugar alcohols are listed. Most importantly, be sure to check what the total carbohydrate content is per serving of any food, and incorporate that carbohydrate in your overall meal plan. If the product contains any total carb grams, it may likely come from sugar alcohols. Continue reading >>
Artificial Sweeteners: Any Effect On Blood Sugar?
Can I use artificial sweeteners if I have diabetes? Answers from M. Regina Castro, M.D. You can use most sugar substitutes if you have diabetes, including: Saccharin (Sweet'N Low) Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) Acesulfame potassium (Sunett) Sucralose (Splenda) Stevia (Pure Via, Truvia) Artificial sweeteners, also called sugar substitutes, offer the sweetness of sugar without the calories. Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than sugar, so it takes a smaller amount to sweeten foods. This is why foods made with artificial sweeteners may have fewer calories than those made with sugar. Sugar substitutes don't affect your blood sugar level. In fact, most artificial sweeteners are considered "free foods" — foods containing less than 20 calories and 5 grams or less of carbohydrates — because they don't count as calories or carbohydrates on a diabetes exchange. Remember, however, other ingredients in foods containing artificial sweeteners can still affect your blood sugar level. More research is needed, but studies are increasingly finding that the benefits of substituting sugar-sweetened food and beverages with those that have been sweetened artificially may not be as clear as once thought, particularly when consumed in large amounts. One reason may be a "rebound" effect, where some people end up consuming more of an unhealthy type of food because of the misperception that because it's sugar-free it's healthy. Also, be cautious with sugar alcohols — including mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. Sugar alcohols can increase your blood sugar level. And for some people, sugar alcohols may cause diarrhea. Continue reading >>
Why Some Sugar-free Products Raise Blood Sugar
In the latest “Really?” column, Anahad O’Connor explores why some foods labeled “sugar free” may still raise blood sugar. The culprits are sugar alcohols that are sometimes paired with artificial sweeteners. He writes: Sugar alcohols get their name from their structure, which looks like a cross between a molecule of alcohol and sugar but is technically neither. Companies have added them to more and more “sugar free” products, like cookies, chewing gum, hard candy and chocolate. For people trying to manage their blood sugar, this can make interpreting nutritional labels a little tricky. While sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than regular sugar — in general about 1.5 to 3 calories per gram, compared with 4 calories per gram of sugar — they can still slightly raise your blood sugar. To learn more, read the full column, “The Claim: Artificial Sweeteners Can Raise Blood Sugar,” then please join the discussion below. Continue reading >>