Despite the name, sugar alcohols are neither sugar nor alcohol.  Sugar alcohols are sugar substitutes that are either extracted from plants or manufactured from starches. Common ones: maltitol, xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol. While many claim they are safe for diabetics because they don’t cause an upsurge in blood sugar. Sugar alcohols may not provide as many calories as sugar, but the reason for this is because they are not completely absorbed into your body. this is why so many complain of bloating, abdominal gas and diarrhea.

Sugar alcohols are found in very low levels in some raw fruits and vegetables, and do not cause problems in this natural state. However these highly processed commercially -produced sugar alcohols used in the “diet” industry are very different from the ones found in nature. These are derived from dextrose, glucose cornstarch or xylitol from birch trees, rendering them a processed food. When these are broken down in the body, they act very similar to how a sugar acts in our bodies. Sugar alcohols are knows to ferment in the digestive tract which can cause cramping and even diarrhea as well as anxiety attacks, problems falling asleep and restless sleep.

There are several specific types of sugar alcohols (usually ending with the letters “-ol”):

Common ones: maltitol, xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol.

  • Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
  • Isomalt
  • Lactitol
  • Maltitol
  • Mannitol
  • Polyol
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

Xylitol has very few calories and is known to metabolize slowly, which helps with sugar highs and lows. If you choose to consume this sweetener, choose on which is derived from birch bark and not a product made from the wood pulp industry.

Erythritol is found naturally in grapes, melons, mushrooms, and fermented foods such as wine, beer, cheese, and soy sauce. Most commercially processed foods that contain erythritol is made from fermenting the sugar in GMO corn.  The processing doesn’t compare to what exists in nature.

Read more on sweeteners … the good and the bad!