Sugar alcohols are used as a sugar substitute in many foods. Another name for sugar alcohol is polyol. The term sugar alcohol is confusing. Sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols. They are a type of carbohydrate that partially resembles sugar and partially resembles alcohol, but don’t contain ethanol which is what is in alcoholic drinks. Sugar alcohols sweeten food, but contain fewer calories than sugar because it is only partially absorbed and metabolized. Their calorie content ranges from 0 to 3 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram in sugar.
The following is a list of common sugar alcohol. Many end in the letter “ol.”
- Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
Sugar alcohols occur naturally in some fruits (prunes) and vegetables, but are also commercially produced for use in many food products. Most commonly found in sugar-free gum and mints, sugar alcohol is also found in candy, pancake syrup, ice cream, baked goods, and fruit spreads. Non-food items such as toothpaste, mouthwash, cough syrups and drops, and throat lozenges may also contain sugar alcohol.
Because sugar alcohol is not completely absorbed, it should be used in moderation. Liberal use of it can have a laxative effect, resulting in bloating, gas, and diarrhea.