What Are Sugar Alcohols?

You may have heard about sugar alcohols for sweetening and ignored them, if you didn’t want sugar or alcohol in your diet. The name can trick you. Sugar alcohols are a carbohydrate with a chemical structure that’s very similar to both alcohol and sugar, but it’s neither. They aren’t alcohol in the traditional sense and don’t have the ability to make you drunk. They act like sugar in your mouth and stimulate the taste buds the way sugar does, but don’t contain the calories.

Sugar alcohol isn’t digested easily.

Your body doesn’t digest sugar alcohols easily, so they can cause digestive issues if you consume larger amounts. Those problems can range from excess gas to explosive diarrhea. Sorbitol, mannitol and maltitol cause the biggest problems, while xylitol and erythritol cause fewer. However, xylitol can be dangerous for your dog. In fact, it can cause hypoglycemia and even death to dogs. So if Rover is in the habit of sharing your food, with permission or without, make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol. For paw parents that use peanut butter as a treat, xylitol is sometimes added to it. READ LABELS.

Not all sugar alcohols are natural.

Xylitol comes from the lab, but can also be from the bark of the birch tree, agricultural waste that occurs when processing wheat, maize or rice, or in small amounts from fruits and vegetables. The xylan polymers found in these sources are hydrolyzed into xylose. Xylose is then catalytically hydrolyzed into xylitol. Erythritol comes from corn that’s treated with enzymes and fermentation. Mannitol was originally made from the flowering ash and is used both in food products and as medicine. While most sorbitol is made from potato starch, it’s also found naturally in pears, apples, prunes and peaches.

There are some benefits of sugar alcohol over sugar.

Sugar alcohols have fewer calories, but taste almost as sweet as sugar. That can lower calories and help keep blood sugar regulated. When you eat it, there’s no immediate spike and sudden drop later. For that reason, it’s low on the glycemic index. It also is lower in carbs. It doesn’t feed the bacteria in the mouth like regular sugar does, so doesn’t promote carries. Xylitol is often used in toothpaste just for that reason.

  • If you’re hunting for the healthiest sugar alcohol to use, opt for erythritol. It has minimal calories, doesn’t affect blood sugar levels, has less potential of digestive upsets and won’t hurt Rover.
  • Sugar alcohols are considered more natural than artificial sweeteners, even though they go through a manufacturing process. Artificial sweeteners are chemicals.
  • The amount of sweetness of sugar alcohol varies. Maltitol is about 75% as sweet as sugar, with Erythritol at 60 to 80%, mannitol at 50 to 70%. Isomalt from beet sugar is 45 to 65% as sweet, while sorbitol half as sweet and lactitol from milk 40% as sweet.
  • Two key phrases will usually direct you to food made with sugar alcohol. The first is that the food is “sugar free.” Once you see that, look for the words, “Please Note: Eating too much can have a laxative effect.” Just read the reviews for sugar free gummy bears on Amazon and you’ll understand.

For more information, contact us today at LIV Fitness

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