Diabetics are understandably concerned about limiting simple carbohydrates – to help keep their blood sugars under control. Still, most people occasionally enjoy the taste of something sweet but don’t want to send their blood sugars soaring – which is one reason foods containing sugar alcohols are so popular. Do sugar alcohols raise blood sugar levels – and are they safe for diabetics?
What are Sugar Alcohols?
Fruits and vegetables contain very small quantities of sugar alcohols, but the sugar alcohols added to food products are made from sugar and starches through a manufacturing process – so they aren’t completely natural. These “manufactured” sweeteners are added to sugar-free products, but because they’re not as sweet as sugar, artificial sweeteners are sometimes added to “sweeten them up”.
You can usually recognize sugar alcohols on an ingredient list, because they end in ‘”ol. Some of the more popular ones in food are erythritol, sorbitol, and maltitol. Sugar alcohols are commonly used to flavor sugar-free gum and candy, but they’re used in other food and drink products as well.
Do Sugar Alcohols Raise Blood Sugar Levels?
Sugar alcohols are absorbed very slowly from the intestines and don’t trigger a significant release of insulin. In fact, up to half of the sugar alcohols a person eats doesn’t make it into the bloodstream, and, instead, is fermented by bacteria in the intestines. This can lead to gas and bloating, which is one of the biggest drawbacks of using sugar alcohols.
Because sugar alcohols are slowly and incompletely absorbed, they don’t raise blood sugar levels significantly. On the other hand, eating foods containing sugar alcohols in very large quantities can elevate blood glucose levels, although not nearly as much as sugar. Most people aren’t able to use large quantities of sugar alcohols because of the bloating they cause.
Do Sugar Alcohols Raise Blood Sugar Levels: The Bottom Line?
Most diabetics are safe using sugar alcohols in modest quantities. On the other hand, bloating and flatulence are a problem for many people, which can make them difficult to tolerate. If you don’t like to use artificial sweeteners, read the label carefully since some foods containing sugar alcohols also have added artificial sweeteners.
Informaworld website. “Gastrointestinal Effects of Low-Digestible Carbohydrates”