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aka Sugar Alcohol

On my quest to discover all sweeteners with polyols available to you in stores,
I found almost 150 products

Make your choice below: 

  • Polyols are sweeteners also called sugar alcohols but are not sugars nor alcohols. Polyols are carbohydrates with low digestibility. To find them on labels, look for the suffix -itol such as in sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, lactitol, mannitol, maltitol, isomaltitol. They are promoted as the go-to sweet ingredient if you want to add bulk (weight and volume) to reduced-sugar or sugar-free recipes. If we replace a portion of a recipe's sugar with a polyol, it will reduce the total calories without losing bulk, but it will also reduce the sweetness.

  • All store-bought polyols are synthetic sweeteners: Polyols found in nature are called "naturally occurring" and include sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, and mannitol. Lactitol, isomalt, and maltitol are not found in nature. All polyols are synthetically made from sugars on an industrial scaleMost polyols are from glucose or glucose syrups (from starch). Some are from sucrose (cane or beet), lactose (milk), or xylose (wood).  


How are Polyols Different than other Carbohydrates?


  • Polyols provide fewer calories than sugar—half or even lessdue to their low digestibility. Most polyols are slowly digested, which means they are not fully broken down and absorbed in the small intestine. They are converted very slowly into glucose, not causing a sudden increase in blood sugar—erythritol is an exception.

  • Because polyols are incompletely or not digested at all, they reach the large intestine intact. Once there, they are fermented by intestinal microbiota, which might offer us beneficial health benefits and adverse digestive effects. If too much polyol reaches the large intestine, it may act osmotically by drawing water from the body, resulting in loose stools.

  • Excessive consumption symptoms include digestive discomfort, bloating, stomach rumble, flatulence, and diarrhea. These effects vary from person to person, being more common in unaccustomed consumers as adaptation may happen over time. The worst effects usually occur with sorbitol and mannitol, so products that contain them must include a warning on their label stating "excess consumption may have a laxative effect". 

  • Polyols are tooth-friendly as they do not react with bacteria in the mouth and do not cause tooth decay. Their label may carry health claims stating so.

Glycemic Index of Polyols


  • The glycemic index (GI) of polyols is the potential they have to increase blood glucose levels. Pure glucose has an arbitrary GI of 100Polyols are carbohydrates that break down slowly during digestion, releasing glucose slowly in the bloodstream, and so have low GI.

  • From the University of Sidney Glycemic Index database, the GI of xylitol = 7, maltitol = 26 to 73, isomaltulose = 32, and lactitol = 3. Unique to sorbitol (GI = 9) and mannitol (GI = 2) is the fact that they are metabolized by the liver, mostly as fructose, which is then converted to glucose without insulin. Erythritol is an exception among polyols as it is absorbed but not metabolized into glucose. As a result, erythritol has a GI = 0.

What is the glycemic index of polyols?
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