Is Sugar Alcohol Bad For You?
If you eat protein bars, or low sugar foods, you’ve probably seen sugar alcohol listed among the ingredients in many popular brands. Sugar alcohols are found most commonly in food products labeled “sugar-free,” including hard candies, cookies, chewing gums, and soda, but have recently become very popular in “health foods”. Do you really know what you’re consuming? Is sugar alcohol bad for you? The short answer to the latter question is “no”, sugar alcohol is not bad for you, but it is not intrinsically healthy either. What Is Sugar Alcohol? Sugar alcohol gets its name because of its molecular structure, which is a hybrid between a sugar molecule and an alcohol molecule. Biochemically speaking, sugar alcohols are structurally similar to sugar but are either poorly digested (e.g., maltitol), or poorly metabolized (e.g., erythritol). Sugar alcohol has grown in popularity as a “sugar replacement” in foods such as protein bars because they contain few calories, minimally impact insulin levels, are safe for those with diabetes, and are better for your teeth. Here’s a list of some popular sugar alcohols so you can identify them when you look at a nutrition label: Erythritol Maltitol Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates Isomalt Lactitol Mannitol Sorbitol Xylitol The two major sugar alcohols found in protein bars and most low sugar foods are maltitol and erythritol, which are explored in more detail below. Sugar Alcohol #1: Maltitol Maltitol, the more popular of the two, has only 2.1 kilocalories per gram (compared to 4 for sugar) and is comprised of glucose and sorbitol (see image on right). Only 80% as sweet as sugar, maltitol has 47% fewer calories…and won’t rot your teeth! The downside of maltitol is its poor absorption. In high doses, it will cause a l Continue reading >>
Sugar Alcohol Facts
Sugar alcohol sweeteners (also known as polyols) usually contain less calories than regular sugar, and have virtually no impact on blood sugar and dental health. Sounds great, except for some disclaimers: since they can't be digested in the human digestive system, these sweeteners can cause gut issues such as flatulence, bloating and diarrhea. In addition, most of these sweeteners are excreted in the urine, which increases the amount and frequency of urination. This increased urination will result in a higher loss of body minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium and possibly cause muscle cramping. At higher intake amounts, this effect is more pronounced, and in rat studies, has resulted in changes in kidney function and structure. (See this reference: Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals,: Fourth Revised Edition, 1995, page 22). Some people with blood sugar issues may experience blood sugar spikes after eating these sweeteners, but this is an individual response. Since all of these types of sugar substitutes contain some calories and carbs, be sure to count them into your daily totals if you are on a low carb diet plan. Below is an overview of the most common sugar alcohol sweeteners: Erythritol Erythritol has about 3/4 the sweetening power as regular sugar, with only a tenth of the calories. One cup of erythritol contains about 10 grams of carbohydrate, and 40 calories. This sugar alcohol is best used in conjunction with other sugar substitutes such as stevia, sucralose and glycerin. Lauren over at the Healthy Indulgences Blog suggests using erythritol in desserts which are of a moist consistency for best results, since erythritol does not attract moisture as regular sugar and some other sweeteners do. Hence, it has a tendency to dry out the foods to wh Continue reading >>
Sugar Alcohol And Insulin Spikes
Okay I've searched some past topics and messages on this forum and have found some info but I'm trying to get the completely deal on this. Does anyone have any good insight into what just what extent sugar alcohols will cause an insulin spike? The reason I ask is because I'm on a very low sugar/low starch nutrional program - mostly meat, fibrous veggies (broc****, green beans, red and black beans, salads, etc), eggs, oat bran, some milk or cheese but not much, whey protein powders, as well as my supplements (there is very little sugar in any creatine I use). I'm eating very little sugar and basically no starches (breads, pastas, or even rice or potatoes). But I am having an occasional "low carb" protein bar, such as NitroTech bars and VPX "Zero Impact" bars. Seeing as these protein bars contain sugar alcohols, are these undermining my low sugar/low starch diet? Does sugar alcohol cause any significant insulin spikes well beyond what I would see with the fibrous veggies I'm eating? Thanks for the input. Okay I've searched some past topics and messages on this forum and have found some info but I'm trying to get the completely deal on this. Does anyone have any good insight into what just what extent sugar alcohols will cause an insulin spike? The reason I ask is because I'm on a very low sugar/low starch nutrional program - mostly meat, fibrous veggies (broc****, green beans, red and black beans, salads, etc), eggs, oat bran, some milk or cheese but not much, whey protein powders, as well as my supplements (there is very little sugar in any creatine I use). I'm eating very little sugar and basically no starches (breads, pastas, or even rice or potatoes). But I am having an occasional "low carb" protein bar, such as NitroTech bars and VPX "Zero Impact" bars. Seeing as th Continue reading >>
Can Sugar Alcohols Raise Blood Glucose?
Have you wondered whether sugar alcohols can raise your blood glucose? Yes, says the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Its a confusing term especially because sugar alcohols occur naturally and synthetically. (And it doesnt have anything to do with with the alcohol found in a martini.) Youll find sugar alcohols in many fruits and vegetables and as artificial sweeteners in many low-calorie products. How can you identify them? Theyre listed on the label with names ending in ol sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol, for example. The synthetic sugar alcohols classified as nutritive sweeteners contain about 2-3 calories per gram instead of the 4 calories per gram you get from other carbohydrates. Because they still contain calories, sugar alcohols may affect your blood glucose levels and must be included in your meal plan. Other sweeteners (saccharin and aspartame) arent sugar alcohols and dont raise your blood sugar (theyre calorie free). Eat foods with sugar alcohols in moderation, the ADA says. Some (sorbitol and mannitol, for instance) can have a laxative effect if you eat too much. Take time to read product labels and become familiar with the food items in your grocery store that contain sugar alcohols. Compiled from 101 Tips for Simplifying Diabetes by the University of New Mexico Diabetes Care Team. Copyright by the American Diabetes Association. Used by permission. All rights reserved. If you spend time on social media, why not get your diabetes tips there also? Lifescript has just launched a dedicated type 2 diabetes Facebook page that will offer diabetes tips, recipes, inspiration and more. Youll get advice, find friends, and discover solutions to everyday living. Come join us! Thanks for signing up for our newsletter! You should see it in your inbox very soon. 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 >>
Blessing In Disguise: Will Sugar Alcohols Make You Gain Or Lose Weight?
Blessing in Disguise: Will Sugar Alcohols Make you Gain or Lose Weight? You see them next to the checkout counter at your natural health food supermarket or whole foods think thin bars with zero sugars. You mean I can have fudge with 0 grams of sugar? you ask yourself, while curiously examining the back of the label to see if its too good to be true. Indeed, zero sugars but what do those kazillion grams of sugar alcohols mean? You whip out the smart phone and do a little google glossing before determining youre good to go and toss a variety of delicious sounding flavors into your basket of unprocessed foods. Sold! But the question is, are sugar alcohols actually any better than sugar, which is bad for you because it causes huge insulin spikes that prevent fat loss? Will it slow down your weight loss and be stored in the body just like carbohydrates and regular sugar is? Does it count towards your carb consumption? And of course, the number one question on your mind: Does sugar alcohols make you fat? Is it sugar? it it alcohol? Try neither. The definition of Sugar alcohols is: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 nosugaradded. So, to me it sounds like they are the latest and greatest sugar substitutes or sweeteners. We all know how well other synthetic sweeteners touted as low calorie worked out. If youre not aware, this article from HOW STUFF WORKS will give you some insight. Are Sugar Alcohols healthy or bad for you? Just say yes or no! I know, you want the truth and nothing but the truth. No wishy washy, well maybe, stuff. Ok, Ill give it to you straight. A huge disadvantage is that you will have a harder time kicking your penchant for sweet foods if you cont Continue reading >>
Sugar Alcohols: Food Sources & Effects On Health
Food companies often combine sugar alcohols with artificial sweeteners to make foods taste sweeter. If you're trying to lose weight , you might benefit from swapping sugar alcohols for sugar and other higher-calorie sweeteners. Besides being lower in calories, sugar alcohols don't cause cavities , which is why they're used in sugar-free gum and mouthwash . Sugar alcohols also create a cooling sensation when used in large amounts, which works well with mint flavors. You may see sugar alcohols as ingredients in many lower-calorie and sugar-free foods like energy bars, ice cream , pudding, frosting, cakes, cookies, candies, and jams. And in spite of their name, sugar alcohols aren't alcoholic . Your small intestine doesn't absorb sugar alcohols well, so fewer calories get into your body. But because sugar alcohols aren't completely absorbed, if you eat too many you might get gas , bloating , and diarrhea . Foods that have mannitol or sorbitol in them include a warning on the package that eating a lot of these foods could make them act like a laxative. To find out if a food or beverage contains sugar alcohols, check the Nutrition Facts Label on the packaging. It shows the amount in grams (g) of total carbs and sugars under Total Carbohydrate and the Percent Daily Value (%DV) of total carbs per serving. Food manufacturers sometimes include grams of sugar alcohols per serving on the label, but they don't have to. The specific name may be listed, such as xylitol, or the general term "sugar alcohol" may be used. But if the packaging includes a statement about the health effects of sugar alcohols, manufacturers have to list the amount per serving. Sugar alcohols can be part of a healthy eating plan when you need to manage diabetes. Unlike artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols a 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 >>
The Ins And Outs Of Sugar Alcohol
Gastroenterologist Octavia Pickett-Blakely, an assistant professor at the Perelman School of Medicine, explains the workings of the increasingly popular sweetener, found in products like Bai Water and Halo Top. Sugar substitutes have risen and fallen in popularity like fashion trends in decades gone by, stocking favorite foods and drinks before being eclipsed by something deemed tastier, safer, or more natural. The latest to enter the sweetener vernacular: sugar alcoholor, more specifically, erythritol, which can be found in drinks like Bai Water and increasingly popular light ice cream Halo Top. Which begs the question: What is sugar alcohol, and what are the associated health risks with consuming it, if any? Octavia Pickett-Blakely , a gastroenterologist and assistant professor at the Perelman School of Medicine, explains the alcohol component of sugar alcohol, its relationship to sugar, and how the gastrointestinal tract responds to it in the body. What is erythritol, otherwise known as sugar alcohol? Sugar alcohols, in general, are a class of sugar derivatives where the alcohol is formed from fermentation of the carbohydrate. Erythritol is part of the class of sugar alcohols. Typically, the sugar alcohols end in -ol, and thats a signal its a sugar alcohol. Erythritol is not the only sugar alcohol; some others are xylitol or mannitol. Those originate from smaller sugar molecules that undergo a fermentation process that changes the chemical structure and results in there being an alcohol component. Erythritol is a derivative of glucose, one of the monosaccharides, or basic sugars, and fermentation can occur from bacteria, or from fungi, to form these sugar alcohols. Alcohol is a broad umbrella term that refers to the chemical structure, but not alcohol as in beers or Continue reading >>
Sugar Alcohols: The “good” Sweeteners?
We’ve already covered the classic artificial sweeteners (sucrose, sucralose, and aspartame) and how they affect weight and the gut flora. Now it’s time for another group of zero- or low-calorie packets on the table: sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are one type of sugar replacements, but they aren’t the same as the classic “artificial sweeteners” like aspartame and sucralose. You can usually recognize sugar alcohols by the –ol ending. Some common ones: Xylitol Erythritol Sorbitol Mannitol Lactitol Maltitol Despite the name, sugar alcohols don’t actually contain any ethanol, they don’t have the same effect on your liver, and they can’t make you drunk. But what they do contain is sweetness, and a lot of it. Sugar alcohols aren’t 0-calorie sweeteners, but they’re lower in calories than sugar. Table sugar has 4 calories per gram. Xylitol has 2.4, Erythritol has 0.2, Sorbitol has 2.6, and Mannitol has 1.6. That makes them popular in a lot of weight-loss recipes and diet products, and over the years they’ve also been praised for various different health benefits. Some people also prefer them because they’re naturally found in plants (e.g. mannitol is usually isolated from seaweed), so they seem less “processed” or more “natural” somehow. But “natural” isn’t a synonym for “healthy:” things are good or bad because of their effects on the body, not because of how “natural” or “unnatural” they are. “Low-calorie” doesn’t equal “healthy,” and we all know that not all health claims actually pan out the way they were supposed to. So here’s a look at the proposed health benefits and potential dangers of sugar alcohols. Sugar Alcohols, Blood Sugar, and Weight. One common claim on behalf of sugar alcohols is that they’re an Continue reading >>
Sugar Alcohols: Everything You Need To Know
179 Comments I’ve been on a bit of an alternative sweetener kick these past few weeks, for good reason: people want and need to know about this stuff. While a purist shudders at the prospect of any non- or hypo-caloric sugar substitute gracing his or her tongue, I’m a realist. People are going to partake and it’s important to understand what’s entering your body and what, if any, effects it will have. Whether it’s diet soda, artificial sweeteners, stevia, or the mysterious sugar alcohols, people want the sweet without worrying about a big physiological effect – an insulin surge, a blood glucose dip, even a migraine. So I’ve been covering the various types and have tried to be comprehensive about it. As a whole, it all seems fairly safe. Alternative sweeteners might mess with some folks’ adherence to a low-sugar diet, and they might induce or fortify cravings, but the research doesn’t suggest that they’re going to give you cancer or diabetes. The potentially negative effects are all fairly subjective, so it’s safe to play around with them and determine their role in your life based on how they affect your appetite, state-of-mind, and any other subjective health markers. One remains, however. I have yet to cover sugar alcohols. I was surprised, actually, having gone through my archives and finding nothing. Sugar alcohols are pretty prominent in the low-carb world – all those sugar-free desserts and chocolates and protein bars geared toward Atkins types tend to use sugar alcohols – so I had better get to it, huh? What Are Sugar Alcohols? A sugar alcohol, also known as a polyol, is an interesting type of carbohydrate. Its structure is kind of a hybrid between a sugar molecule and an alcohol molecule (hence the name “sugar alcohol”) and, for the Continue reading >>
What Are Sugar Alcohols And Are They Healthy?
What Are Sugar Alcohols and Are They Healthy? The sweet and the salty sides of sugar alcohols. Now that fat has reclaimed its place in the public's heart as a necessary (and not-so-unhealthy) nutrient, sugar has taken on the role of public health enemy number one . Many people aim to cut back on the sweet stuff by opting for low-sugar or even sugar-free foodslots of which still mysteriously have a sweet flavor. Hmm. So how, exactly, do manufacturers create these products to satisfy a sweet tooth without actually skyrocketing the sugar content? One answer: sugar alcohols. No, sugar alcohols don't contain alcohol as you know it (aka ethanol, the compound that gets you tipsy), though they do have an oxygen-hydrogen bond like the liquid in your happy hour drink. At the most basic level, sugar alcohols are naturally occurring carbohydrates, says Angela Lemond, R.D.N, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and founder of Lemond Nutrition . Some fruits naturally contain them, like stone fruits (think: peaches and plums) and blackberries, as well as sugar-free gum and candy, low-sugar protein bars, and "healthy" ice creams . You'll know a product contains a type of sugar alcohol by checking the ingredient list, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N ., author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table. Take note if you spot words ending in an "-ol" (such as sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol, or xylitol), as that's the sign of a sugar alcohol. While the actual grams of sugar may stay low for a product with these ingredients, the total number of carbs could still be high. (Here's your guide to reading the newest nutrition labels .) Manufacturers often use a chemically produced sugar alcohol as a lower-calorie sweetener, says Taub-Dix. Compared to regular s Continue reading >>
What Are Sugar Alcohols?
You probably havent heard of sugar alcohols beforethey dont garner the nutritional spotlight the way table sugar and artificial sweeteners do. But we can almost guarantee youve eaten them before. Sugar alcohols occur naturally in certain fruits and vegetables: pears, apples, dried fruit, mushrooms, snow peas, avocados. But they can also be chemically processed and used as non-sugar sweeteners to boost the flavor of food and still score the label of sugar-free, says Danielle Capalino, R.D., author of Healthy Gut, Flat Stomach! In fact, most products labeled sugar-free likely have an artificial sugar alcohol compound in them. Even their name is confusing: Sugar alcohols are not actually a sugar (though they taste sweet) and not alcohol (like what you would find in beer), but rather a group of carbohydrates that partially resembles both sugar and alcohol, chemically, explains Liz Applegate, Ph.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Youre probably familiar with a few types: sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol, maltitol. Each has varying degrees of side effects on your digestive system (well get to those in a sec), but in general, theyre all more or less nutritionally the same, Applegate says. The biggest question: Since sugar is the new enemy of the state, are sugar alcohols a healthier alternative? Well, theyre certainly better for your teeth: Dentists like the compounds because sugar-free chewing gum doesnt cause cavities the way regular gum does, Capalino points out. Nutritionally, certain aspects of sugar alcohols make them healthier than alternatives. Sugar can actually damage your body by causing your insulin levels and blood sugar to spike, which inevitably comes with a crash in your energy levels. These sugar alcohols give sweetness to 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: 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 >>