Sugar Alcohol Benefits and Food Sources


Sugar alcohols are monosaccharide and disaccharide derivatives, such as sorbitol and xylitol, which are extensively used as sweeteners in the food industry. They have got increased attention because of their desirable properties of relative sweetness and limited digestion and absorption. Sugar alcohols are also classified as carbohydrates although their empirical formula is slightly different. Since these substances can be found in plants, sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, and maltitol are recognized as artificial sweeteners. Sugar alcohols are used mainly to sweeten sugar-free candies, cookies, and chewing gums as they do not promote the formation of cavities in the same way as sugars.

Sugar alcohols are organic compounds which are derived from sugars comprising class of polypols. It is a white and water soluble solids occurring naturally or could be produced industrially from sugars. In commercial foodstuffs, sugar alcohols are used commonly instead of table sugar and often in combination with high intensity artificial sweeteners to counter low sweetness. Besides adding sweet taste, sugar alcohols perform various functions such as providing cooling effect or taste, adding bulk and texture and inhibiting browning which occurs during heating and also retain moisture in foods.

Food Sources

  • Baked goods
  • Chewable vitamins
  • Candies
  • Cough drops
  • Chocolates
  • Drinks
  • Cough syrups
  • Gums
  • Frostings
  • Jellies
  • Ice cream
  • Puddings
  • Mouthwashes
  • Toothpastes

Health Benefits of Sugar Alcohol

  1. Supports metabolism

Sugar alcohols are slowly as well as incompletely absorbed from small intestine into blood. When absorbed, it is converted to energy by process that requires no to little insulin. Some sugar alcohol is not absorbed into blood but passes through small intestine and is fermented by bacteria in large intestine. Its excess consumption provides laxative effect.

  1. Diet for diabetic patients

The basic goal for diabetes management is to maintain near to normal blood glucose levels. Diabetic people should consult physician, health professional and dietitian about incorporating sugar alcohols to daily meal plans. It is recommended that diabetic people should manage blood sugars.

  1. Low calorie and carbohydrate diet

Due to its low energy density, replacing other carbohydrates with sugar alcohols could lower energy density of food products and plays a crucial role in managing weight. Sugar alcohols have a role in lowering overall glycemic challenge of diet. Excessive intake of energy in any form results to weight gain. Consumer should consider total calorie content of diet and avoid over consumption of foods including those which contains sugar alcohols.

  1. Dental health

Bacteria in mouth do not act upon sugar alcohols and therefore does not cause tooth decay. Xylitol inhibits oral bacteria and is used in sugarless mints as well as chewing gums for this reason.


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