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Sugar Alcohols

Overview

Sugar alcohols are a type of sweetener. They are used in foods labeled "sugar-free" or "no sugar added."

You'll find them in:

  • Chewing gum.
  • Toothpaste.
  • Mouthwash.

You'll also find them in sugar-free foods, such as:

  • Candies.
  • Cookies.
  • Soft drinks.

Small amounts are found naturally in plant foods, such as berries and fruits.

Common names for sugar alcohols are erythritol, glycerol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH).

These sweeteners turn to glucose more slowly and don't cause sudden increases in blood sugar. But if you eat too much of them, they can cause diarrhea, bloating, and even weight gain.

Carbs and calories in sugar alcohols

Even though a food is "sugar-free," it still has carbohydrate and calories. Sugar alcohols have about half to a third fewer calories than sugar.

If you have diabetes, read food labels closely. Look for the amount of carbs in each serving of food that has sugar alcohol.

Sugar alcohols don't cause sudden spikes in blood sugar. But they do have some effect on it.

Credits

Current as of: May 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Colleen O'Connor PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian