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Sugar Alcohols are Reduced-Calorie Sweeteners


Updated February 08, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Sugar alcohols are often used as reduced-calorie sweeteners in candies, snacks, toothpaste, mouthwash and chewing gum. They're called sugar alcohols because of their chemical structure -- however, they don't contain any ethanol, which is the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages.

Sugar alcohols are used to replace added sugars, but they're not calorie-free like most artificial sweeteners. In fact, they can have up to half of the calories per gram of regular sugar. They're safe to use in your diet, although some people suffer bloating or diarrhea if they consume too much of them.

What You'll See on the Food Label

  • erythritol
  • lactitol
  • maltitol
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol
  • isomalt
  • hydrogenated starch hydrolysates

Using sugar alcohols can help you enjoy sweets with fewer calories than regular sugar, plus they won't promote tooth decay. But you need to know that just because a food claims to be sugar-free because it is sweetened with sugar alcohol does not mean it is going to be calorie-free. You need to check the Nutrition Facts label for the calorie, sugar, fat and sodium content for each serving.


American Diabetes Association. "Sugar Alcohols." Accessed January 25, 2010.


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