If you carefully observe the nutritional facts about a sugar – free candy or gum, you will be surprised to see that it contains sugar alcohol. Never get deceived by this name as it was given such due to the fact that some parts of it contain alcohol while others contain sugar. It is a consumer – friendly name though.
Never get confused by all of these. Although they seem to share a name that is similar, alcoholic beverages and sugar alcohol are different in terms of chemical structures. There is no ethanol in sugar alcohol while it seems to be present in alcoholic beverages.
Meaning of sugar alcohol
Sugar alcohol can also be called polyols. They are ingredients which function as bulking agents and sweeteners. They naturally occur in fruits. Plant products are their primary sources like berries and fruits. The amount of calories that they provide are few compared to sugar. This is because they get converted to glucose in a much slower way. Also, the amount of insulin required for metabolism is little or zero. They don’t lead to the rise of blood sugar suddenly. This is why people suffering from diabetes make use of them more often. However, people of various categories are making use of them more than ever before. As a matter of fact, you can consume them without even knowing.
Some examples of sugar alcohols are hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH), maltitol, isomalt, lactitol, xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol. They aren’t just used in the preparation of home food but can also be discovered in foods which are processed. Food products or packages which have been tagged sugar – free like soft drinks, throat lozenges, chewing gums, cookies, and hard candies do contain sugar alcohol. You can also find them in mouthwash and toothpaste.
Why are they always made use of? The first is that they provide very sweet flavor to foods which are being prepared for diabetic patients. You need to beware though since there is this misconception that every product which contains sugar – alcohol is categorized as free food. Most of these products do contain some carbohydrates. Ensure that you have seen the food label in order to know the level of carbohydrate inside of it. You can also discuss with a professional dietician in order to know what ways it can fit into your diet or meal.
If terms such as ‘‘no added sugar’’ and ‘‘sugar free’’ are listed by any manufacturer, quantity of sugar alcohol which have been included should be listed. If a product contains over one sugar alcohol, such will be listed under carbohydrates. In case it is only one sugar alcohol which has been used, the exact name will be stated. An example is hydrogenated starch hydrolysates or mannitol.
Sugar alcohols pros and cons
The amount of calories contained in sugar alcohols is minimal (1.5 to 3 calories/gram). Sugar contains about 4 calories/gram. They don’t make the tooth to decay as compared to sugar. Some of the examples of gums that are sugar free include Extra® and Trident®. Sugar alcohol is what they have been produced with. Also, texture can be added to food by sugar alcohol. Food moisture can be retained much better and they can help to prevent food from becoming brown after being heated.
Sugar alcohol does have some negatives though. It can lead to bloating as well as diarrhea when taken in high and excessive quantities. There is also proof that sugar alcohol can cause laxative effects the same as fructose. Furthermore, once these products are consumed excessively, there is chance of gaining too much weight. As explained by American Diabetes Association, it is very important that sugar alcohols are consumed in moderate amounts. People suffering from Type I diabetics usually have worsened conditions once this form of sugar is taken in excessive quantity.