What are sugar alcohols?
Sugar alcohols – also know as polyols – are neither sugars nor alcohols. They are carbohydrates with a chemical structure that partially resembles sugar and partially resembles alcohol, but they do not contain ethanol (as alcoholic beverages do). They are incompletely absorbed and metabolized by the body, and consequently contribute fewer calories. Their calorie content ranges from 1.5-3 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram for sucrose or other sugars.
Some of the more commonly used sugar alcohols include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, and maltitol syrup. They occur naturally in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but are also commercially produced from other carbohydrates. Along with adding a sweet taste, they may perform a variety of functions in foods.
Due to their incomplete absorption, sugar alcohols produce a lower glycemic response than sucrose or glucose and therefore may be useful in diabetic diets. Also, sugar alcohols do not contribute to tooth decay.