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- What are sugar alcohols?
- Are there any safety concerns with sugar alcohols?
- What are nonnutritive sweeteners?
- Saccharin: What are the pros?
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- Can you get something for nothing?
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What are sugar alcohols?
Sugar and sugar alcohols are each considered nutritive sugar substitutes because they provide calories when consumed. Sugar alcohols, or polyols, contain fewer calories than sugar. Sugar provides 4 kcal/gram, and sugar alcohols provide an average of 2 kcal/gram (range from 1.5 kcal/gram to 3 kcal/gram). Contrary to their name, sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols. They are carbohydrates with structures that only resemble sugar and alcohol.
Foods that contain sugar alcohols can be labeled sugar-free because they replace full-calorie sugar sweeteners. Sugar alcohols have been found to be a beneficial substitute for sugar for reducing glycemic response, decreasing dental cavities, and lowering caloric intake.
Sugar alcohols naturally occur in many fruits and vegetables but are most widely consumed in sugar-free and reduced-sugar foods. The sweetness of sugar alcohols varies from 25% to 100% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose). The amount and kind being used will be dependent on the food. The following table lists the details on each of the sugar alcohols.
|Sugar Alcohol||Calories/Gram||Sweetness Compared to Sucrose||Sources|
|Sorbitol||2.6||50% to 70%||Sugar-free hard and soft candies, chewing gum, flavored jam and jelly spreads, frozen foods, and baked goods|
|Mannitol||1.6||50% to 70%||Chewing gum, hard and soft candies, flavored jam and jelly spreads, confections, and frostings|
|Xylitol||2.4||100%||Chewing gum, hard candies, and pharmaceutical products|
|Erythritol||0.2||60% to 80%||Confectionery and baked products, chewing gum, and some beverages|
|Isomalt||2.0||45% to 65%||Hard and soft candies, ice cream, toffee, fudge, lollipops, wafers, and chewing gum|
|Lactitol||2.0||30% to 40%||Chocolate, cookies and cakes, hard and soft candies, and frozen dairy desserts|
|Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH)||3.0||25% to 50%||Sugar-free foods and candies, and low-calorie foods|
|Maltitol||2.1||90%||Sugar-free chocolate, hard candies, chewing gum, baked goods, and ice cream|