Are Sugar Alcohols Worse Than Sugar?

Sugar and sugar alcohols differ greatly in terms of sweetness, calorie content, digestion, and blood sugar levels, as well as their impact on oral health.

Calories and sweetness

They provide roughly 2 calories per gram on average, compared to 4 calories per gram from sugars (1, 3).

Furthermore, they are often slightly less sweet, with 25–100% of the sweetness of table sugar. Lactitol has the least sweetness, while xylitol has the same sweetness as sucrose (1, 3, 4).

Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and inflammatory illnesses are all linked to excessive sugar consumption (2, 5).

As a result, sugar alcohols may aid in the reduction of sugar consumption by giving a lower-calorie alternative to sugar that nevertheless tastes sweet (1, 6).


Sugars are broken down in the small intestine and transferred into the bloodstream to be processed or used for energy (3, 7).

Erythritol is an exception, as it is well absorbed but not metabolized. Instead, it’s essentially intact and eliminated through your urine (3, 8).

Most sugar alcohols, on the other hand, travel through to your large intestine and are fermented by gut bacteria.

This might induce bloating, flatulence, stomach pain, and diarrhea at greater ingestion levels, especially in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (3, 9, 10).

Moderate dosages of 10–15 grams per day are commonly tolerated, according to current standards. To avoid symptoms, sensitive people may need to avoid sugar alcohols, especially sorbitol and maltitol, or minimize their intake (3, 9, 10).

Effect on blood sugar levels

Sugars are broken down into a basic form and taken into the bloodstream when consumed, resulting in a rise in blood sugar levels (7).

Insulin then carries the carbohydrates into your cells, where they are either transformed into energy or stored (7).

The glycemic index (GI) is a metric that determines how rapidly a food elevates blood sugar levels. The GI of glucose is 100, while the GI of sucrose is 60, indicating that both have a high GI (11, 12).

Because sugar alcohols are poorly absorbed, they have a much less impact on blood sugar levels and consequently a lower GI, with values ranging from 0 to 36. (1).

People with pre-diabetes, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome may find sugar alcohols to be a good alternative.

Tooth decay

Sugars are fermented in your mouth by bacteria, which can form acids that harm your tooth enamel and raise your risk of dental caries (1).

Sugar alcohols do not cause tooth decay since your mouth’s microorganisms are unable to ferment them (1).

In fact, xylitol and erythritol may help prevent tooth decay, which is why they’re commonly found in toothpaste, sugar-free mints, and gums. More research, however, is required (13, 14, 15).

Sugar alcohols are less sweet and contain less calories than sucrose. They’re also less digestible, which could pose problems for some people. Sugar, on the other hand, has a greater impact on blood sugar levels and may play a role in tooth decay.

Is sugar alcohol safer than sugar?

Sugar and sugar alcohols are sweet-tasting carbohydrates with chemical structures that differ significantly.

Sugar alcohols are often less sweet than sugar and have less calories. They also have a lower impact on blood sugar levels, making them an excellent choice for diabetics.

Unlike sugar, however, they are poorly absorbed by the body. This means that consuming them in big amounts or by sensitive people might result in bloating, flatulence, stomach pain, and diarrhea.

Is sugar alcohol still bad for you?

“Sugar alcohols may have a minor effect on blood sugar levels, but they’re generally safe to take as part of a well-balanced diet,” explains registered dietitian Tegan Bissell, RD.

However, consuming too much sugar alcohol in your diet can have negative consequences. Bissell explains how to get the benefits while avoiding the pitfalls.

What is sugar alcohol?

The phrase “The name “sugar alcohol” is deceptive because it is neither sugar nor alcohol. “According to Bissell, sugar alcohols are a form of carbohydrate with a chemical structure similar to sugar.

Sugar alcohols are used by food makers to sweeten their products while decreasing calories. “Bissell explains that they “stimulate the tongue’s sweet taste buds, enhancing flavor without adding sugar or calories.” “Without losing taste, food businesses can brand their products as low-carb, sugar-free, or diabetic-friendly.”

Sugar alcohol vs. sugar

While some sugar alcohols come from fruits and plants, most are synthetic, according to Bissell. Sugar is derived entirely from natural sources, such as fruits, plants, vegetables, and milk.

Does sugar alcohol count as sugar intake?

When it comes to diabetes management, sugar alcohols can be a component of a healthy food plan. Sugar alcohols, unlike artificial sweeteners, are a type of carb that can boost blood sugar levels, though not as much as sugar.

In your total food plan, you’ll need to keep track of carbs and calories from sugar alcohols. Meals labeled “sugar free” or “no sugar added” may appear to be “free” foods that you can eat as much as you like, but consuming too much of these can cause dangerously high blood sugar levels.

Subtract half of the sugar alcohol grams from total carb grams if you’re counting carbs and the food includes more than 5 grams of sugar alcohols. Do the following calculations if the label says “Total Carbohydrate 25 g” and “Sugar Alcohol 10 g”:

With one exception: if erythritol is the sole sugar alcohol listed, Total Carbohydrate should be reduced by the amount of sugar alcohol listed.

If you need assistance making a food plan or controlling carbs, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist.

Is stevia a sugar alcohol?

Sugar alcohols and high intensity sweeteners are the two main types of sugar replacements. Sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, erythritol, and maltitol are sugar alcohols. Saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), sucralose, neotame, advantame, stevia, and Siraitia grosvenorii Swingle fruit extract are all high-intensity sweeteners (SGFE).

Here’s what you need to know:

Sugar alcohols have a lower influence on blood sugar levels than regular sugar because they are difficult to digest. Subtract half of the grams of sugar alcohol mentioned on the food label from the total grams of carbohydrate when counting carbohydrates in goods containing sugar alcohols.

Remember that sugar alcohols are more difficult for your body to digest, so eating too much of them might cause digestive issues including gas, cramps, and diarrhea.

Now let’s practice using the samplefood label shown here:

  • Find the total carbohydrate content of a single serving. The total carbohydrate is 29 grams, as you can see.
  • Calculate half of the sugar alcohol grams (18 grams ofsugar alcohol divided by 2 equals 9 grams).
  • Count this product as 20 grams of carbohydrate by subtracting half of the grams of sugar alcohol from the total carbohydrate (29grams total carbohydrate minus 9 grams sugar alcohol equals 20 grams ofcarbohydrate).

Are sugar alcohols inflammatory?

Inflammation in the intestines can cause pain, diarrhea, and bleeding. What you eat is one factor that can influence the health of your intestines. Sugar alcohols are a form of carbohydrate that can induce intestinal issues, albeit they do not cause inflammation directly. Consult your doctor if you have digestive difficulties after taking sugar alcohols.

Is erythritol a sugar alcohol?

Erythritol (ear-RITH-ri-tall) has been around since the time of grapes, peaches, pears, watermelon, and mushrooms. A sugar alcohol is a type of carbohydrate that is used as a sugar replacement.

Some foods naturally contain erythritol. It’s also created when fermented foods like wine, beer, and cheese are consumed.

Since 1990, erythritol has been available as a man-made sweetener in addition to its natural form. It’s sold alongside other sugar alternatives in supermarkets and on the internet.

It’s also sold in bulk to companies that use it to sweeten or thicken foods and drinks that are low in calories or sugar-free. It’s frequently combined with sugar substitutes like aspartame, stevia, and Truvia to make products sweeter.

Calories. Erythritol provides 0 calories per gram, whereas sugar has four. That’s because it’s swiftly absorbed by your small intestine and excreted through urine within 24 hours. This means that erythritol does not have a chance to “metabolize,” or convert into energy, in your body.

Safety. Despite the fact that erythritol is one of the younger sugar alcohols on the market (xylitol and mannitol have been around longer), it has been studied extensively in both animals and humans. Erythritol was approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1999 and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001.

It’s also suitable for diabetics. Erythritol has no influence on the levels of glucose or insulin. If you have diabetes, this makes it a safe sugar replacement. Foods containing erythritol may still contain carbohydrates, calories, or fat, so read the label carefully.

How much food can I consume? Although there are no formal guidelines for utilizing erythritol, most people can tolerate 1 gram per kilogram of body weight on a daily basis. If you weigh 150 pounds, 68 grams of erythritol per day, or more than 13 teaspoons, is tolerable.

What it’s used for. Erythritol can be used in the same way as sugar. It’s excellent to add it to coffee or tea, to sprinkle on grapefruit, or to bake with. Because it’s a sugar substitute rather than real sugar, baked goods may have a different flavor or consistency than you’re used to.

Do sugar alcohols count on keto?

Sugar consumption is restricted on the keto diet because it raises blood sugar levels.

This is a problem since high blood sugar levels make it difficult for your body to stay in ketosis, which is essential for reaping the keto diet’s benefits (9, 10).

Sugar alcohols are typically included in keto-friendly goods since they have a considerably lower impact on blood sugar levels.

Furthermore, because sugar alcohols and fiber aren’t entirely digested, keto dieters often deduct them from the total number of carbs in a meal item. The resulting figure is known as net carbohydrates (11).

Nonetheless, due to the differences in GIs across sugar alcohols, some are better for the keto diet than others.

Erythritol, which has a 0 glycemic index and can be used in both cooking and baking, is a wonderful keto-friendly alternative. Erythritol is also better tolerated than other sugar alcohols due to its tiny particle size (12, 13).

Xylitol, sorbitol, and isomalt are all keto-friendly sugars. If you have any gastrointestinal side effects, you may just wish to reduce your intake.

The GI of maltitol is lower than that of sucrose. However, with a GI of up to 52, it’s more likely than other sugar alcohols to have a substantial impact on your blood sugar levels (14, 15).

As a result, if you’re on a keto diet, you might want to reduce your maltitol intake and go for a sugar substitute with a lower GI.

Most sugar alcohols are deemed keto-friendly since they have no effect on blood sugar levels. Maltitol has a stronger blood sugar effect and should be avoided on a keto diet.