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Is Sugar Alcohol Bad For You? Here’s What You Need to Know

is sugar alcohol bad for you
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Pexels

Do you worry whether sugar alcohol is bad for you? In fact, there are actually many benefits to these alternative sweeteners!

Despite the name, sugar alcohols do not contain any alcohol. They are simply sweetening products that have a chemical structure similar to that of both sugar and alcohol. Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates extracted from plants, sugars, and starches. They are used to sweeten both foods and drinks. While sugar alcohols have fewer calories than sugar, they are also less sweet. They are therefore used in larger quantities to get the same level of sweetness. So, is sugar alcohol bad for you?

Types of Sugar Alcohols: Are They Bad for You?

Many sugar alcohols are a great alternative sweetener in baking.
Many sugar alcohols are a great alternative sweetener in baking.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / LAWJR)
  1. Erythritol is one of the sweetest sugar alcohols available and is widely used. It is derived from corn and can be easily used as a replacement for sugar. It is common in many low-calorie processed foods, but you can also buy powdered erythritol sweetener on its own and use it in baking. It is also effective in preventing plaque build-up
  2. Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate is often used commercially not only as a sweetener but also as a crystallization modifier and as a humectant, i.e. a substance to keep things moist. It is often used in syrup, for example. 
  3. Isomalt is commonly used in sugar-free candies and cough drops. While it is difficult to cook and bake with, it is a great option to keep foods fresh and for cake decorating.
  4. Lactitol is used in sugar-free products such as cookies, chocolates, and ice cream. It’s also used as a laxative and prebiotic to promote colon health. 
  5. Maltitol is another one of the sweetest options among sugar alcohols, at about ninety percent the sweetness of sugar. It is good at adding moisture so it is often used in baked goods. For its cooling sensation, maltitol is also found in chewing gum and candy.
  6. Mannitol is used in hard candies, dried fruits, and chewing gum. It has anti-humidity properties and a cooling effect.
  7. Sorbitol is used in low-calorie foods and drinks, as well as in many oral care products like mouthwashes, gels, and toothpaste. Sorbitol has been shown to benefit tooth and gum health.
  8. Xylitol is used in baked goods, tea and coffee, cereals, and more. It’s also very popular in oral care products as it prevents dental caries, decreases plaque build-up, and even remineralizes tooth enamel.

Sugar Alcohols Can Be Good for You

Cooking with sugar alcohols is an easy way to make lower calorie treats.
Cooking with sugar alcohols is an easy way to make lower calorie treats.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / sontung57)

People sometimes opt for sugar alcohols over sugar because sugar alcohols have fewer calories and a lower impact on blood glucose compared to conventional sugar. As a sugar replacement, sugar alcohols are a great option for those who are pre-diabetic, diabetic or simply looking to watch their caloric intake. 

Sugar alcohols also do not contribute to tooth decay, unlike sugar. Some of them, like Xylitol, even help prevent bacterial growth that leads to tooth decay. Erythritol has also been shown to prevent plaque build-up and cavities. 

When Is Sugar Alcohol Bad for You?

Sugar alcohols are not bad for you as long as you don't consume them in exorbitant amounts.
Sugar alcohols are not bad for you as long as you don't consume them in exorbitant amounts.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / shixugang)

There are a few potential negative side effects to sugar alcohols. Because sugar alcohol is absorbed and digested differently than regular sugar, it can lead to digestive problems. Sugar alcohols also have a laxative effect which can cause diarrhea, bloating, cramps and gas. However, there is little cause for concern over this unless you are consuming sugar alcohols in excessive amounts. 

Important: Xylitol is toxic to dogs, so make sure to keep any products with xylitol out of reach from your pup! 

Lastly, sugar alcohols are not very environmentally sustainable due to the energy it takes to source and process them. In terms of sustainability, it is usually better to use natural and organic sweeteners such as (vegan) honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup.

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