With there now being two known kinds of diabetes due to the obesity epidemic that plagues America, sugar has become a concern for everyone. Table sugar is now an ingredient only used by the brave or the careless. Sugar alcohols have made it possible to still enjoy our favorite foods with less risk. You may have noticed them on the labels of some of your favorite "sugar free" foods. The question is what is this new magical ingredient and what's the catch?
Sugar alcohols are not artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin come from a whole different source. Sugar alcohols, scientifically termed polyols, are naturally occurring ingredients in plants and fruits like berries. They are not artificial. Also, artificial sweeteners do not have any calories and sugar alcohols have 2.6 per gram. So if you're against sugar alcohols it should not be because they are unnatural.
Ironically, sugar alcohols contain neither sugar nor alcohol. So no, it's not that kind of alcohol. They cannot get you drunk. Several popular types of sugar alcohols are mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH). You can find them in hard candies, cookies, chewing gums, soft drinks, throat lozenges, toothpastes, and mouthwashes.There are many benefits to this alternative to table sugar as an ingredient. First, they contain half to one-third less calories than table sugar. They also do not cause tooth decay. As far as the carbohydrates go they require no insulin to metabolize. Nutritionally there is no necessity for them but hey, we are a nation that loves sweets. Sugar alcohols are better than real sugar for that purpose.
However, you were right. There is a catch. Everyone is different so it's not a blanket effect but sugar alcohol does hold the possibility of having a "laxative effect." It can cause bloating and diarrhea in some individuals. This is also a possibility with fructose (real sugar). The Yale- New Haven Hospital also reports that the American Diabetes Association warns against large amounts of sugar alcohols because in excess they can cause blood sugar rises and weight gain. It's kind of one of those "too much of a good thing" scenarios. Translation: 56 sticks of sugar free gum is not better than a piece of candy. Diabetics, we advise you to keep in close contact with your dietician because even though these don't contain sugar, they do have carbohydrates. You've got to be cautious.
Overall, sugar alcohols are not bad for you. They can have ill-effects on certain individuals and diabetics should consult their doctor before introducing new foods. The idea is to keep a policy of moderation with everything you eat so the list of associated cons won't happen to you.