Article at a Glance
- Is Sugar Alcohol Bad for You?
- Is Sugar Alcohol Bad for Your Liver?
- Is Sugar Alcohol Bad for Your Gut?
- What’s Wrong with Maltitol, Sorbitol or Xylitol?
- Why is Your GI Index Important?
- Is Honey a Better Form of Sugar?
Is Sugar Alcohol Bad for You?
The two major sugar alcohols found in protein bars and most low sugar foods are maltitol and erythritol. In this article we will explore whether or not sugar alcohol is bad for you by exploring how sugar alcohol is bad for your liver, bad for your gut and it’s effects in comparison to regular table sugar.
Sugar Alcohols are Commonly Found in Protein Bars, Gums, Sodas and other Foods Considered, “Health Foods.“
Here’s a list of some popular sugar alcohols so you can identify them when you look at a nutrition label:
- Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
So what IS maltitol, exactly? Is this sugar alcohol bad for you?
Maltitol is a sugar alcohol that has been artificially processed from starches like corn, essentially by hydrogenating (or adding hydrogen to) starches like corn starch. Companies us maltitol due to the sweetness – it has 75 – 90% of the sweetness of sucrose (table sugar) but half of the calories.
There’s just one problem with this: maltitol may not be the best thing for you to ingest. Even though it allows brands to sell a cheaper, lower-sugar bar, it could be worth it for you to spend the extra fifty cents on a bar that doesn’t contain the ingredient. Why is that?
Maltitol vs. Sugar
- 4 calories per gram
- Glycemic index of 60
- 100 percent sweetness
- Promotes cavitites
- 2–3 calories per gram
- Glycemic index of 52
- 75 percent to 90 percent sweetness
- May help prevent cavities
Like sugar, maltitol is a carbohydrate that contains calories. The body does not absorb all the calories in maltitol, but it still provides about 2 to 3 calories per gram, compared to four calories per gram of sugar. Since maltitol is a carbohydrate and has calories, it also affects blood glucose.
Maltitol syrup has a glycemic index of 52, which approaches that of table sugar at 60. The glycemic index is a measure of the effects of food on raising your blood glucose level. The powdered form has a glycemic index of 35, which is still higher than most other sugar alcohols and higher than all artificial sweeteners.
Harmful effects of Maltitol
Indigestion and nausea
The reasons to be concerned about maltitol consumption mostly stem from the fact that maltitol can’t be fully digested in our bodies. That means that it starts to ferment in our gut, and this produces a number of negative effects. After eating maltitol, you might experience:
- Stomach pain
- Higher blood sugar
Foods that score higher on the glycemic index will cause more of a spike, meaning that people who have diabetes or are watching their blood sugar levels will need to monitor for this in foods, even foods that may claim they have a low net carb content.
Weight gain can actually occur due to the glycemic index so even though you are thinking you are buying a bar with very low net carbs or low-to-no sugar, you might actually be doing your body harm.
Maltitol and your GI score—is sugar alcohol bad for your GI score?
Chances are, if you’re diabetic, you’re familiar with the glycemic index, and if you aren’t, you’ve probably heard of it but may have never actually learned about it, even though it affects us all – you may already know if sugar alcohol is bad for you.
The glycemic index is basically a measurement of how different carbohydrates, like sugar, will affect your blood sugar levels.
Even non-diabetic folks will experience unpleasant effects from spikes in blood sugar levels. If you have a blood sugar spike, you could feel hungry again sooner, even though you just ate, and this can lead to weight gain from extra calories munched!
When calculating net carbs, many people will subtract fiber and sugar alcohols from the overall carb content. But maltito, like other sugar alcohols has a (relatively) higher glycemic index, meaning it actually SHOULDN’T be subtracted from the equation.
The glycemic index is designed so that glucose sugar in its pure form scores 100. Regular, processed table sugar (sucrose) comes in at 60. In its syrup form, maltitol scores right up there with processed sugar, at 52. That means that a lot of the negative effects you were trying to avoid by NOT eating sugar might still be there with maltitol. In its powdered form, it scores 35. On the flip side, a natural sweetener like honey is both low GI and provides added health benefits like antioxidants, b vitamins and sustained energy for athletic performance.
Is Sugar Alcohol Bad for Your Liver?
Despite the name, sugar alcohols do not contain ethanol. Moderate doses of sugar alcohol are digested and metabolized through the liver in the same way as sugar. Sugar, particularly high fructose syrups can overload the liver by causing a fatty build-up that can lead to liver disease and damage it just as much as alcohol.
Are Sugar Alcohols Bad for Your Gut?
If you already know you have a FODMAP sensitivity, you might have jumped at the word “sorbitol” in the list of sugar alcohols – and if you did, your instincts were completely correct. Sorbitol, and other sugar alcohols are FODMAPs carbohydrates. FODMAPs are certain types of carbohydrates that can cause gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and other digestive symptoms in people who are sensitive to them.
Specifically, sugar alcohols are polyols (that’s the “P” in FODMAPs). In whole foods, polyols are mostly found in stone fruits (e.g. peaches or cherries), mushrooms, and cauliflower, so if you react poorly to those foods, you might not do very well with sugar alcohols either.
These carbohydrates might not be completely digestible to you, but the parts you can’t break down make a very tasty dinner for your gut flora, and the consequences aren’t always pleasant.
So what is the glycemic index of honey?
Honey is considered an added sugar and unlike low carb bars, it cannot be subtracted from overall carbohydrates to get a low “net carb” bar. Honey is significantly better than sugar and has an overall lower GI score than most sugar alcohols. Honey can be a good substitute for sugar even though generally, there’s no advantage to substituting honey for sugar in a diabetes eating plan. It has a GI index of roughly 62. It is still a sugar and should be treated as such.
There are many variances when it comes to honey depending upon how it is refined. Generally, darker honey has more healthy benefits and is of higher quality, especially if stored in a dark space in a glass jar. Honey contains fructose, glucose and water plus other sugars as well as trace enzymes, minerals, amino acids and a wide range of B vitamins. The amount of these micronutrients varies depending on where the honey comes from. In general, darker honeys contain more vitamins than lighter ones and also provide more trace minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Unlike other sweeteners, honey has been widely touted in the sports nutrition arena for its benefits as a good carbohydrate for endurance athletes. One study has shown that honey is a good carbohydrate tor replenish muscles.
Three clinical trials were conducted with placebos that demonstrated honey as a superior carbohydrate option for athletic performance based on its low glycemic index, positive metabolic response, and effective energy production.
Natural organic clover honey is good for you and the environment
Each bar is lightly sweetened with organic clover honey not only because we think it tastes better, but it’s mother nature’s natural energy source. The wholesome ingredients used to create our delicious bars would not be possible without the help of the honey bees. We buy only organic clover honey that is better for you and better for honey bees. Organic clover honey is derived from clover plants. Honey is collected from the clover plants while they are in bloom. You might be asking yourselves now, what about the honey from a honeycomb and hive? Honey can in fact come from flowers.
Organic clover honey is sourced from the nectar of clover blossoms and hasn’t been processed, heated, or pasteurized at all. And it’s not only good for those enjoying it — it’s good for farmers, too. The clover from clover crops helps replenish nutrients into the soil that are ordinarily lost on other crops. Plus, the crop works well in a drought environment and helps prevent soil erosion — a win-win for everyone involved.
There are a lot of forms of sugar alcohols or sweeteners including ethryitol , sorbitol, sylitol and stevia marketed toward a diet culture that focuses on low carb or keto diets. While every person has different health goals, a real food approach focused on simple whole foods derived from mother nature is our M.O. at Real Food Bar.