Is Maltitol a Safe Alternative Sweetener?

Many people choose alternative sweetener options over sugar when they’re trying to make healthier lifestyle choices. One popular alternative is maltitol, a sugar alcohol that comes from corn syrup. It’s commonly used in sugar-free and low-carb food and drinks, but is it really a safe option? Let’s take a closer look at maltitol so that you can make an informed choice about your sweetener options.

What is Sugar Alcohol (Namely Maltitol)?

Maltitol or maltitol syrup belongs to a group of sugar alcohols known as polyols. Though the name suggests otherwise, these compounds are not exactly sugars or alcohols in the traditional sense. They do, however, share characteristics with products in both of these categories. They’re lower in calories than sugar and they don’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels. This makes them a popular sweetener for people who live with diabetes or follow low-sugar and low-carb diets.

Maltitol is about 90% as sweet as sugar, which means it can be used in similar quantities to achieve the desired level of sweetness in food products.

Is Sugar Alcohol Bad for You?

Maltitol  sugar

Generally, no. Sugar alcohols are not bad for you. In fact, one of the primary benefits of opting for maltitol is its lower calorie content. While sugar has about 4 calories per gram, maltitol contains only about 2 calories per gram. This can help with weight management, especially when used in place of sugar in sweet treats. Additionally, because it has a lower glycemic index compared to sugar, it has a less dramatic impact on blood sugar levels. Plus, it’s practically just as sweet as sugar.

Sugar Alcohol Side Effects

Despite its benefits, maltitol is not without its drawbacks. One of the most common side effects of consuming it is digestive discomfort. This is especially true when this simple ingredient is consumed in large quantities. Because it is only partially absorbed in the small intestine, maltitol can ferment in the large intestine, causing gas, bloating, and diarrhea. As such, it’s a good idea to go easy on maltitol consumption until your body has time to adjust to digesting it.

Dental Health Benefits

Cupcakes with green frosting and clovers on a wooden table

Unlike sugar, maltitol does not contribute to tooth decay. This is because it is not fermented by the bacteria in the mouth that tend to cause cavities. This makes maltitol a popular ingredient in sugar-free gums and candies that aim to be better for dental health.

It can be a safe and effective alternative sweetener for many people, especially those looking to reduce their calorie intake or manage their blood sugar levels. However, it is important to consume it in moderation to avoid potential digestive issues. As with any dietary change, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.