Maltitol is a polyol, also known as a sugar alcohol, which is created from the sugar, maltose. This sugar substitute came into popularity along with multiple other sugar alcohols as dieters began to find new ways to cut carbohydrates out of their diet. In food, maltitol has been used in chewing gum, ice cream, chocolates, hard candies, and baked goods to reduce the sugar content. The reasons that most people include maltitol in their diet is as part of a low-carbohydrate or diabetic lifestyle.
The major drawback to using maltitol is the laxative effect it can have on the body. Unlike natural sugars, maltitol is only partially absorbed in the bloodstream, causing some of the substance to be handled in the small intestine. When absorbed, maltitol is fermented by bacteria, which can, in large doses, cause discomfort, abdominal gas and diarrhea. A serving size of maltitol is typically 10 grams or less. These symptoms typically only occur if the consumer takes in several serving sizes of the maltitol-containing product each day, according to a 2003 study by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study showed that the more servings of maltitol consumed per day, the higher the likelihood of digestive problems, but each subject reacted to maltitol differently.
Blood Sugar Rise
One of the major claims of maltitol is that it does not raise blood sugar levels and thus can be enjoyed by diabetics and dieters looking to keep blood sugar levels down. According to Sweet Savvy and Food Insight, some maltitol users still experience an increase in blood sugar similar to the increase they received while eating regular sugar. This may be because some people do not have the proper enzymes to digest maltitol property. There are various over-the-counter products that help people without those enzymes to digest maltitol and other sugar alcohols. If you are concerned about your blood sugar, test the level of your blood sugar after trying maltitol. If it rises similarly to sugar, maltitol may not be the sugar-substitute for you.
Dr. Eric Berg, writer of the book “The 7 Principles of Fat Burning,” does not recommend sugar alcohols for weight loss. During his nutritional work with patients at the The Health & Wellness Center in Alexandria, Virginia, he has seen patients retain water due to ingesting sugar alcohols. Since the human body is less adept at digesting sugar alcohols than regular alcohols, it may retain more water as it is attempting to digest the sugar alcohols. This fluid retention can be a major drawback to dieters who are attempting to lose weight quickly by shedding excess water retention.
Reduced Tooth Decay
One of the major benefits of maltitol is that, unlike natural sugar, it does not promote tooth decay, according to the OptDgest website. Natural sugar reacts with bacteria in the mouth to cause teeth issues, but this reaction does not occur in sugar alcohols. As a result, less natural sugar and more sugar alcohol may lead to a reduction in tooth decay.
Sugar alcohols have fewer calories than standard sugar, and as a result, their consumption leads to a reduction in overall calories. When part of a balanced diet and exercise plan, a reduction of calories may lead to weight loss and an improvement in health, according to Dr. Eric Berg. Maltitol has three calories per gram while standard sugar has four calories per gram.
References and ResourcesThe 7 Principles of Fat Burning: Get Healthy, Lose Weight and Keep It Off; Eric Berg; 2008
Opt Dgest: Sugar Alcohols Fact Sheet
Debra Lynn Dadd: Sweet Savvy
Nature: Digestive Tolerance Study of Maltitol
Food Insight: Sugar Alcohol Fact Sheet