What Are Sugar Alcohols?

Food labels can be so confusing. Carbs, fiber, sugar, sugar alcohols? excuse me, what? sugar alcohol? Does is give you a buzz if you eat foods with sugar alcohols? haha, no. :)Contrary to their name, sugar alcohols are neither sugars, nor alcohols. They are carbohydrates with structures that only resemble sugar and alcohol.

Sugar alcohols are low-calorie sweeteners added to foods.  Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar and have less of an effect on blood glucose than other carbohydrates. They have also been found to reduce dental cavities.

Are they healthier?

  • Sugar alcohols, or polyols, contain fewer calories than sugar. Sugar provides 4 kcal/gram, and sugar alcohols provide an  average of 2 kcal/gram
  • Sugar alcohols have fewer carbohydrates than regular sugar, and for people with diabetes, this can help with blood sugar control


    • Because sugar alcohols aren’t absorbed by the body completely, high intakes of  foods containing some sugar alcohols can lead to abdominal gas and diarrhea. Any foods that contain sorbitol or mannitol must include a warning on their label  that “excess consumption may have a laxative effect.” The American Dietetic Association advises that intakes greater than 50 grams/day of sorbitol or  greater than 20 grams/day of mannitol may cause diarrhea.

Verdict? Do whatever works for you. Me personally, I’d rather have the real stuff (real sugar) in moderation. 😉


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