Sugar alcohols are organic compund which is extracted from the sugar, which are a popular low-calorie sugar substitute and are popular as a sweetener in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries. Sugar alcohol takes its name from the fact that its chemical structure resembles that of sugar itself. Since its molecular structures are similar to those of sugar, it is found in sweeteners all over the world, but most commonly in high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
There are many different sugar alcohols, the most common being xylitol, maltitol (mannitol), sorbitol and erythritol. Note that most of these substances have the letters “ol” at the end of their names, but the two most important sugar alcohols that are highly abundant – fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and other sweeteners – are maltsitol and iberic acid. Some of the most common sugar alcohols you can find are at the end of the letter ol, as are some other sugars, so it can be helpful to find them quickly in an ingredient list.
Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than normal sugars, but have the disadvantage that they are only partially absorbed by the body. This is because some of them are not fully absorbed, meaning that they do not have the same effects as if someone consumes normal sugar. Some studies also suggest that regular sugar affects blood sugar and insulin, so sugar alcohols are used for the same reason artificial sweeteners were used: they cause a reduction in blood sugar.
For this reason, they are called sugar alcohols and are found in fruits, vegetables and cereals, but they are mostly found in foods that claim to be sugar – free but without added sugar. If something is billed as “sugar-free” or “free of added sugars,” it may contain sugar.
If more than one sugar alcohol is used in a product, the Nutrition Facts panel indicates the amount of sugar and alcohols it contains. If you use only one of these sugar alcohols, you may not find any quantities of them in your product. However, if you use more than one sugar alcohol, your label should include a specific name for it, such as “sugar alcohol.
You can determine whether your food contains sugar by looking at the nutrition table and whether it lists the total of carbohydrates or sugar alcohols. If your product contains sugar alcohols, see “Sugar Alcohol” under Total Carbohydrates.
The name is slightly misleading because sugar alcohols are not ethanol, the kind of alcohol that makes you tipsy, but carbohydrates that are chemically different from normal sugars and cause a rapid increase in blood sugar. They are less digestible than sugar, which is why they typically have a higher glycemic index (GI) than normal carbohydrates such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Your body is prepared to digest most of the sugars in alcohol because they are chemically similar to normal sugars.
Artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, so you need to use more to achieve the same sweetening effect. Sugar has fewer calories than sugar, but most of them are not as sweet and cause a higher glycemic index (GI) than normal sugar.
Although sugar alcohols have fewer calories than sugar and sucrose, they are not as sweet and have less nutritional energy, meaning that they must be used in larger quantities to achieve the same sweetening effect as table sugar. Due to the higher glycemic index (GI) of sugar compared to sugar, you cannot use it as an alternative sweetener.
If you have an upset stomach, if you eat sugar alcohol – sweetened foods or other foods – read the ingredients to see what type of sugar alcohols are in the product and if they are actually contained. If a product contains more than 5 g of sugar alcohols, subtract the amount of sugar alcohol from the total amount of carbohydrates, even if it contains less carbohydrates. Also tell your patient that you can deduct sugar alcohols from your carbohydrate intake if erythritol is the only sugar alcohols used in your product. If you include sugar alcoholics in your daily carbohydrate intake, you should not deduct them from it, as they have fewer carbohydrates.
The Nutrition Facts label may list sugar alcohols as “sugar alcohol” or carbohydrates as “polyol,” but they are not alcohol. They often start with sugar and have chemical similarities to alcohol, but are also not sugar and are often classified in the same category as other carbohydrates such as fructose, sucralose or sucralose.
Different sugar alcohols have different absorption rates and each one generally has different effects on tooth decay and dental health than glucose, fructose and sucrose, the three primary sugars. Sugar alcohols are not as sweet as sugar as a group and have slightly less nutritional energy than sucrose, but contain about the same amount of energy as other sugars such as glucose and fructose. However, they contain slightly more sugar than other carbohydrates such as fructose or sucralose, so they do not cause tooth decay.
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