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 25100% 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 connected 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 1015 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.
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.
Are sugar alcohols considered sugar?
“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 gain 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 notes 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 diabetes-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.
Is sugar alcohol more harmful than ordinary 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 better for you than regular sugar?
Sugar alcohols, sometimes referred to as polyols, are sweeteners and bulking agents. They are found in foods naturally and are derived from plant products such as fruits and berries. They have fewer calories (approximately half to one-third fewer calories) than ordinary sugar as a sugar alternative. This is due to the fact that they are converted to glucose more slowly, require little or no insulin to be digested, and do not produce blood sugar spikes. This makes them popular among diabetics, but they are also becoming more widely used by the general public. You can be consuming them without even realizing it.
Is sugar alcohol harmful to your health?
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 it true that 11 grams of sugar alcohol is a lot?
Eight forms of sugar alcohols have been permitted for human consumption, as previously stated (3).
Because xylitol, erythritol, and maltitol are the sugar alcohols that most closely resemble regular sugar, you’ll see these three sweeteners more frequently than other sugar alcohols.
Sugar alcohols are distinguished by their taste, calorie content, and physiological effects.
Because of its strong resemblance to sugar, xylitol is one of the most widely utilized sugar alcohols.
Sugar-free chewing gums, mints, and dental care items like toothpaste all include it.
The sweetest of all sugar alcohols, xylitol offers around 40% fewer calories than normal sugar. People generally tolerate xylitol well, but if you ingest high amounts of it, you may develop stomach problems (8, 9).
Erythritol is another sugar alcohol that is thought to have a great flavor.
Because erythritol does not reach your large intestine in considerable proportions, it does not have the same digestive adverse effects as most other sugar alcohols.
Instead, the majority of it is absorbed by your small intestine, then dispersed throughout your body before being eliminated in your urine unchanged (11).
It has 60% of the sweetness of sugar but just 60% of the calories. It’s found in a variety of sugar-free foods and beverages, such as jelly spreads and soft sweets.
When you take less than 10 grams, it has very little effect on your blood sugar and generates minor stomach problems. If you ingest more than 20 grams, however, you may experience digestive difficulties such as stomach pain and diarrhea (11).
Maltitol has a taste and mouthfeel that is remarkably similar to normal sugar. It’s 7590% sweeter than sugar and has approximately half the calories.
Maltitol, like other sugar alcohols, is poorly absorbed by the small intestine, so it doesn’t immediately enter your bloodstream and has the same effect on blood sugar and insulin levels as sugar (12).
Other sugar alcohols
Sugar alcohols come in a variety of forms in today’s diet. Because they taste the most like conventional sugar, xylitol, erythritol, and maltitol are the most often used in food preparation.
When it comes to sugar alcohol, how much is too much?
Most sugar alcohols are regarded safe in doses of 10 to 20 g per day, but this varies by kind. Ingesting more than 20 g of sorbitol, for example, induces diarrhea, according to one study. Xylitol, on the other hand, has a higher daily safe dose of up to 70 g, with some persons tolerating up to 200 g.
Are sugar alcohols safe for diabetics to consume?
Xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol, and maltitol are common sugar alcohols (they commonly end in the letters ol, like sugar “alcohol,” which might help you locate them immediately in the ingredient list).
Do Sugar Alcohols Raise Blood Sugar?
Sugar alcohols are a form of carbohydrate that can cause blood sugar levels to rise. As you can see on the right-hand Nutrition Facts label, “Foods labeled as “sugar-free” but containing sugar alcohols are neither carbohydrate- nor calorie-free!
Sugar alcohols, on the other hand, are digested by the body differently than other carbs, and some may elevate your blood sugar somewhat while others may not.
Erythritol, for example, is a sugar alcohol that does not raise blood sugar levels. As a result, it’s become quite popular as a low-carb ingredient “foods that are “keto” Erythritol is available in certain supermarkets and can be used in home cooking, so it’s possible you’ll see it in low-carb dessert recipes.
What Might Sugar Alcohols Do in Other Parts of The Body?
Sugar alcohols, unlike normal sugar, do not cause cavities. In fact, xylitol, a sugar alcohol found in sugar-free chewing gum, may aid in cavity prevention.
Many sugar alcohols, especially when consumed in high quantities, can induce gas, bloating, and stomach discomfort, and some persons may be more sensitive to this effect than others.
If you get an unpleasant stomach after eating “sugar-free” or other items sweetened with sugar alcohols, check the ingredients to discover which type of sugar alcohol is used. You should either avoid items that contain that type of sugar alcohol or limit how much you eat in a single session.
Sugar alcohols are safe to consume and may be an excellent choice for diabetics. When used in excessive quantities, however, they can induce gastric problems, and some sugar alcohols can boost blood sugar levels.
“Sugar-free” does not necessarily imply “carbohydrate-free.” Sugar-free foods’ carbohydrate content can be seen on the label.
Sugar-free items can be included in your diet if you keep track of the carbs. Check your blood sugar 1 1/2 to 2 hours after consuming a sugar alcohol-containing food to see how it changes.
As usual, your nutritionist or diabetes health-care team can assist you in determining whether or not using sugar replacements in your diet is the right option for you.
Is sugar alcohol a carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates, including sugar alcohols, are still a type of carbohydrate. Subtract half of the sugar alcohol grams mentioned on the food label when counting carbohydrates in goods containing sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols may be shown under total carbohydrate on some Nutrition Facts labels.
What is the maximum amount of sugar alcohol a diabetic can consume?
While there aren’t particular guidelines for each form of sugar alcohol, a general limit of 50 grams is a good starting point.
Is stevia a sugar alcohol or a sweetener?
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).