What are Sugar Alcohols?

Only 4 grams of carbohydrate and 16 calories are present in a teaspoon of sugar. More than a teaspoon of sugar is unfortunately demanded by most people. According to some food intake surveys, the average American consumes around 20 sugar teaspoons per day. Corn sweeteners make up nearly 60 percent of this intake, heavily used in sodas and various other drinks. Sucrose or table sugar accounts for another 40 percent, while sweeteners such as molasses and honey add very little to the intake. Scientists search for new sweetening agents to be used in foods, known to have few calories but tasting identically, is on the rise.

The use of some substitutes of sugar is an object of discussion. Regardless of the fact that they have been approved by the FDA, many discussions on sugar substitutes flood the net as their safety is an object of rumors.

Though there is a great number of sweetening agents, described here are only the sugar alcohols. They are also known as sorbitol, polyols, xylitol, mannitol, isomalt, lactitol, and HSH. The name "sugar alcohols" is given to them due to the fact that a part of their structure is similar to the structure of sugar and another part resembles alcohol. The same ethanol, that is present in alcoholic beverages, in not a part of sugar alcohols. This means that sugar free chocolates will not make you look like a drunkard.

Naturally, sugar alcohols are found in small amounts of food. Manito, for example, is a sugar alcohol found in olives, pineapples, sweet potatoes, asparagus, and carrots. When used in concentration, it causes diarrhea and GI cramps.

While not produced for the reduction of weight, most sugar free foods have the same effect on diets as other products, as their calories are nearly the same. Fewer calories are provided by the sugar alcohols than by sugar, and they don't cause tooth decay. However, the difference in calories is thinned as more have to be consumed to attain the same effect of sweetness. Manito accounts only for up to 70% of the sugar sweetness.

Sugar alcohols are absorbed in a slower manner and need less insulin for breaking down. This, on the other hand, impacts less on people suffering from diabetes.


Orbital is responsible for the laxative effect of some fruits. It is found in vegetables and fruits naturally. For commercial use, corn syrup is used in production. Compared to sugar, its sweetness is only 50 to 60 percent, meaning that it requires twice the amount so that the product has the same amount of sweetness. Orbital has 2.6 calories per gram, while the sugar has 4. This fact indicates that the amounts of calories which the body extracts from both sweeteners are similar.

Occurring naturally in many vegetables and fruits, Xylitol is produced also during the metabolism in the human body. It tastes sweet but doesn't heighten the risks of teeth cavities (which makes it suitable for use in the manufacture of sugar free gums). Also named "wood sugar", it is known to be commercially produced from plants such as hard wood trees, birch, and various fibrous plants. Having similar to the sucrose bulk and sweetness, Xylitol has a third of its calories (2.6 per gram). The new sugar free chocolates may also contain lactate. Because its solubility and taste are similar to that of sugar it's, often used in foods free of sugar. While not designed for weight reduction, these foods are similar to sugar in view of calories. The reason is that lactate has only up to 40 % of the sugar sweetness. More than twice of the usual sugar amount must be used in order to attain the same effect of sweetness. The end result is that calories are nearly the same because lactate has only 2 calories per gram. On the other hand, the sugar has four.