Sugar Alcohol Sweetened: A Look Into Polyols

Sugar Alcohol Sweetened: A Look Into Polyols picture


 Getting acquainted with food labels is an absolute necessity when looking to monitor your food intake. The idea of being conscious about the components of our food intake ought not to only take priority at the onset of health complications. Our nutritional choices are a critical aspect in prevention of certain ailments. One food item that everyone can benefit from cutting down on is sugar. It is mainly for this reason that the polyols are becoming widely used of late. On an average, their calorie composition is 50% less compared to that of sugar and they rate very low in terms of glycemic index. When looking to avoid the detrimental effects of excessive sugar intake, polyols are one of the most convenient sweetening options. 

Polyols sometimes referred to as sugar alcohols are sweet tasting, low GI, carbohydrates that are produced from hydrogenation of sugar groups. First off, the AKA sugar alcohol can somehow conjure up the wrong idea. Sugar alcohols are neither sugar nor are they alcoholic but their chemical structure bears similarities to both alcohol and sugar.  

 In comparison to sugar, polyols have significantly low calorie content and a very low glycemic index. Owing to the low glycemic index nature of sugar alcohols, they are not absorbed efficiently into the blood stream. As a result sugar alcohols don’t have a drastic effect on blood glucose levels and subsequently make for an attractive choice in reduced calorie dietary preferences.

Since sugar alcohols are not efficiently absorbed in the small intestine, even fewer calories will be taken in by the body. Sugar alcohols are gaining widespread use in food manufacturing as a replacement for conventional sugar. When polyols are used as one of the ingredients, the polyol content should be declared in the nutritional information table.

 Polyols occur naturally in small quantities in certain fruits and vegetables. Their commonplace use in food manufacturing has made way for the commercial scale manufacturing of sugar alcohols from sources such as sucrose, starch and glucose. Polyols are classified as natural as opposed to artificial sweeteners.

The digestion mechanism of polyols can pose a bone of contention for certain individuals. There is a documented research that links excessive consumption of polyols with gastrointestinal discomfort such as bloating and diarrhea. It is for this purpose that, when one is not accustomed to the consumption of polyols, the recommended daily intake should not exceed 15 grams – from there one can gradually work their way up without encountering further issues.   On the upside though, the long term consumption of polyols is not associated with any health defects.

Furthermore, the sweetness intensity of polyols with the exception of xylitol is less than that of sugar. To an individual with a sweet tooth already, replacing sugar with most polyols would inevitably require excessive use to make up for a reduced degree of sweetness. Hence xylitol is mostly preferred for this purpose since its sweetness is similar to that of sugar. 

 Polyols are favoured for a number of diet regimens such as the diabetic friendly, the KETO friendly as well as the sugar-free diet. However since they are not entirely calorie-free, despite their relatively very low glycemic index, overindulgence is still not recommended.  Some of the polyols find use in conjunction with non- nutritive or high-intensity sweeteners, as bulking agents. 

A list of polyols and how they compare against table sugar 

  • Sorbitol:  found naturally in some fruits and is typically manufactured from dextrose that is derived from corn starch – its sweetness intensity is only 60% that of sugar.


  • Erythritol: is manufactured from cornstarch through fermentation –it is 70% as sweet as sugar.


  • Mannitol: found in a variety of plant products including strawberries, mushrooms and onions. It is commercially made from fructose from cornstarch –it is 60% as sweet as sugar.


  • Maltitol: it is produced from maltose derived from cornstarch –it is 75% as sweet as sugar.


  • Isomalt: manufactured from sugar –it has 55% the sweetness intensity of sugar.


  • Lactitol: made from whey-it  is only 35% as sweet as sugar


  • Hydrogenated starch hydrolysate (HSH):  starch is first hydrolysed into short chain sugars, which are then hydrogenated into sugar alcohols- HSH sweeteners provide 40 – 90% sweetness in comparison to sucrose.
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