What is Sugar alcohol?

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Sugar alcohols exist on a bit of a spectrum, meaning some are better than others. They typically still have a glycemic load, just not as significant as sugar. They’re also pretty well known to give some people pretty serious digestive upset. Look at the ingredients list for something like sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol, or erythritol, and google search that specific sugar alcohol for more info. I’ve seen charts online with the glycemic index of each. And if it doesn’t upset your stomach, well, it’s better than sugar!


Sugar alcohols are essentially sugars where the aldehyde or ketone groups are replaced by a hydroxyl group. There are multiple types of sugar alcohols. Some have an osmotic effect where they’ll pull water into the intestines and cause diarrhea. Others exhibit prebiotic effects and increase the growth of bifidobacterium and lactobacilli. I’d say sugar alcohols are not as “bad” for you as conventional, refined sugar


Also know that xylitol is fairly toxic to dogs so if you share at all with your pup be aware of that.


I work in a research and development position in the food industry and have done some work with sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are used in foods as a way to reduce the amounts carbs and sugars on the label to allow for low carb/low sugar claims. They are about as sweet as sugar but have fewer calories. Our bodies can’t metabolize sugar alcohols as well as sugar, so they mostly just pass through us with little effect on blood sugar. But since they don’t get fully absorbed they can cause GI issues. GI issues are more common when sugar alcohols are consumed in excess (eating more than one serving of a food containing them) or if someone has a particular sensitivity to a certain sugar alcohol. Also some sugar alcohols are more likely to cause discomfort, for example you’ll probably feel worse if your consume too much maltitol vs too much erythritol.


Proceed with caution unless you enjoy farting for hours 💩