Health & Fitness

Bee Healthy: Sugar alcohol in foods is neither sugar nor alcohol

You may notice that many foods labeled “no sugar added” or “sugar free” contain sugar alcohol. What is sugar alcohol?

It is actually neither sugar nor alcohol, but it tastes sweet and its chemical structure looks like sugar and alcohol. The following are some of the common names of sugar alcohol: sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol, and they frequently are used in processed foods, including cookies, candies, chewing gum and ice cream.

Sugar alcohols contain less calorie count than real sugar because they are not fully absorbed by the body. For those with diabetes, sugar alcohols do not spike blood glucose level as much as real sugar.

However, eating too much of sugar alcohols may cause digestive problems such as gas, diarrhea and cramping for some people.

Some people may now wonder about the difference between sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, aspartame and sucralose.

Artificial sweeteners have zero calories and do not elevate blood glucose, while sugar alcohols contain about 2.5 calories per gram and do have a slight effect on blood glucose.

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