Maltitol Sugar Substitute - What It Is And How It Effects Your Health

in Low-calorie

One of the keys to maintaining a healthy eating plan is to thoroughly understand the ingredients in the food you buy. A packaging claim like "sugar free" or "reduced sugar" doesn't necessarily equate to "all you can eat", especially when it comes to maintaining your weight and feeling your best.

In fact, foods that are promoted as low sugar, reduced sugar, or sugar free are often the most misunderstood. It pays to read labels and to know the basics about sugar substitutes - what they're made of, how they work, and what effect they have on the body.

One of the most commonly used (and most frequently misunderstood) ingredients in reduced sugar foods is Maltitol, a commercial sweetener that's extensively used in the manufacture of "diet" foods. It's processed from corn and is technically classified as a sugar alcohol, but while it's similar to sucrose (table sugar), it's also different in many ways.

Maltitol has about half the calories of sugar - about two calories per teaspoon - and though it has a pleasant taste similar to that of sugar, it's sweetening power is only about 75% to 90% that of sugar.

There are a number of reasons why Maltitol is a popular choice in the manufacture of "diet" foods. Not only is it a lower-calorie sugar replacement that tastes almost identical to sucrose, it lacks the significant aftertaste that's characteristic of many non-nutritive sweeteners. It's also used in many low-fat foods because it gives a smooth, creamy texture to food.

Maltitol is also the sweetener of choice in most chocolate based sugar free foods.

But though Maltitol is similar to sugar in taste and sweetening power, it behaves very differently in the body. Maltitol's Glycemic Index, or measurement of impact on blood sugar levels, is somewhat lower than that of sugar; cane sugar has a GI of 60, while the GI of Maltitol ranges from 36 for the powdered form to 52 for syrup form.

One of the main differences between sugar and Maltitol is the speed with which it's absorbed by the body. Cane sugar is absorbed very rapidly, which can result in rapidly rising blood glucose levels. When that happens the body will attempt to normalize blood sugar with the release of insulin, a hormone that pulls sugar out of the blood and and redirects it to muscles and organs where it can be used for energy production.

Maltitol is absorbed much more slowly than cane sugar and thus has less impact on blood sugar levels. However, that doesn't mean that seeing Maltitol on the label means a food has no dietary impact.

Consuming too much Maltitol can have some very unpleasant digestive consequences, including gas, bloating, and diarrhea. And though it has fewer calories than ordinary sugar, it's far from non-caloric, so over-consumption can lead to weight gain.

The bottom line? Eaten in sensible servings, Maltitol is a safe and good-tasting alternative to sugar, and foods containing Maltitol can be a valuable addition to the diets of anyone interested in limiting sugar intake. But as with all things, common sense and moderation are crucial.

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Ruth Butters has 10 articles online

Cutting back your sugar intake doesn't mean giving up the sweet treats you love. Visit Eat Healthy for easy, affordable, healthy recipes for a wide range of low sugar and sugar free goodies like cookies, cakes, candy, and desserts for diabetics.

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Maltitol Sugar Substitute - What It Is And How It Effects Your Health

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Maltitol Sugar Substitute - What It Is And How It Effects Your Health

This article was published on 2012/03/28