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: 

Erythritol is a polyol or sugar alcohol - a type of carbohydrate that, unlike sugar, is digested slowly. It is less sweet than sugar (~70% the sweetness of regular sugar), and require a 'laxation claim' in food labels. Is offered as a natural sweetener as is produced by natural fermenation process. It is considered a low-calorie sweetener as it provides 0.2 kcal/g.
Xylitol-based Sweeteners. Xylitol is a polyol or sugar alcohol - a type of carbohydrate that, unlike sugar, is digested slowly, having little impact on blood sugar or insulin levels. Xylitol provides about half the calories of regular sugar (sucrose). Xylitol is the sweetest of the polyols and is as sweet as sucrose.
Sorbitol | Mannitol | Isomalt
Sorbitol and mannitol were the first polyols to become available as sweeteners.

Both are about half as sweet as table sugar.
Sorbitol provides about 8 calories per teaspoon (3g).
Mannitol provides about 7 calories per teaspoon (4g).
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  • Polyols provide about half or less of the calories of sugars and are used not only for sweetening but for a variety of culinary benefits

  • Chemically speaking, they are also called sugar alcohols but are not sugars nor alcohols; they are carbohydrates

  • To find them on labels, look for the suffix -itol such as in sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, lactitol, mannitol, maltitol, isomaltitol

  • Some polyols are found in nature and often referred to as 'naturally ocurring': sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, mannitol 

  • Although present in small amounts in nature, all store-bought polyols are synthetic copies of their natural counterparts

  • Some polyols have not been found in nature and so, are artificially made: lactitol, isomalt, maltitol-containing syrups  

  • On an industrial scale, all polyols are synthetically prepared from sugars by fermentation or hydrogenation

  • Most polyols are made from glucose or glucose syrups (from starch); others from sucrose (cane or beet), lactose (milk), or xylose (wood)  

  • Most polyols are less sweet than table sugar; their sweetness varies from 25% to almost 100% as sweet as sugar

  • Due to polyols reduced sweetness, compared to table sugar, they are often blended with high intensity sweeteners.

How are Polyols Different than other Carbohydrates?


  • Being slow-, low-, or non-digestible carbohydrates, they contribute about half the calories of table sugar or even less.

  • Most polyols are converted very slowly into glucose, not causing a sudden increase in blood sugar (erythritol is an exception).

  • They are incompletely or not digested at all and so, reach the large intestine, where they are at least partially fermented by microbes.

  • 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 but these effects vary from person to person, being more common in unaccustomed consumers as adaptation may happen over time. The worst effects usually happen 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 do not react with bacteria in the mouth and so, do not cause tooth decay; sweetener label may carry health claims stating so

  • Promoted as the the go-to sweet ingredient if you want to add bulk (weight and volume) to reduced-sugar or sugar-free recipes 

  • Replacing a portion of a recipe's sugar with a polyol reduces total calories, without losing bulk, but also reduces the sweetness.

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 100

  • Polyols 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, isomaltulose = 32, and lactitol = 3 

  • Sorbitol (GI = 9) and mannitol (GI = 2)​ are metabolized by the liver, mostly as fructose, which is converted to glucose without insulin

  • Erythritol is an exception among polyols as it is absorbed but not metabolized into glucose and so has a GI = 0.

Copyright © 2020  WhatSugar Blog by Adriane Mulinari Campos 

Everywhere in the USA | Based in Richmond,VA | Email me at info@whatsugar.com

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