No sugar added versus sugar free. Sugar Alcohol?

By Grammie_K#1 Latest Reply 2011-02-03 13:31:50 -0600
Started 2011-02-01 14:33:07 -0600

Ok, this has probably been discussed before, but here goes.
We all know that any food in general either contains sugar, or very little sugar (like celery). If we add any sugar, that's sugar added. None added just means less.
Now my guestion is: What is Sugar Alcohol? What does it do? How does it relate in measuring sugar intake?
These are questions my own doctor couldn't answer, having never heard of sugar alcohol.
I finally found the answer (I think) by checking out the Hershey website and looking at their sugarfree selections. They explained it in their terms, by not as related medically to a diabetic.
No one in the medical field has answered this to my satisfaction. I have asked several doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medics, etc. Either they also never heard of it, or don't know how to judge how much is too much, or equal to real sugar.
Just wanted to share this, since Valentines Day is coming, winter makes us all hunt comfort foods, and bordem and chocolate go together so nicely.

12 replies

fancyfree 2011-02-03 12:32:01 -0600 Report

I never thought to check for sugar alcohol. Well—I just checked my "sugar free" candy & sure enough there it was right in plain english. 15gm in 5 pieces. Guess I'll have to look closer, from now on. Thanks for the great info.

Grammie_K#1 2011-02-03 09:10:12 -0600 Report

Thanks Type1Lou. Lol, your years of experience are certainly a good example of 'the voice of reason'. I too, read the labels and find more to be cautious of when dealing with 'lite, reduced, no fat, low fat and sugar free'. Splenda is my sugar of choice. I cook, bake, season, etc, everything I make that calls for sweetner. Even my family likes the taste, or lack of after taste, lol. As for your dark chocolate and peanut butte trick, great idea. I guess great minds think on a certain wave level. I use dark chocolate chips and dry roasted peanuts mixed together. Sweet and crunchy, lol. It satisfys both cravings. I also use peanut butter for a dip for veggie sticks. My grandkids love it too!

Type1Lou 2011-02-03 13:31:50 -0600 Report

I appreciate your feedback. One other "quirky" thing I do might or might not be of interest to you. My husband loves his pasta. What's a carb-avoiding diabetic wife to do???? I make spaghetti sauce for us and hubby has his with pasta while I put the sauce on french style green beans…lots fewer carbs that way. I admit, it looks a bit stange but find it works well for me and keeps hubby happy.

Type1Lou 2011-02-02 15:51:07 -0600 Report

Yours was a GREAT question! Thanks for bringing it up. Early in my 30+ years with Diabetes, I ate lots of sugar-free candy…and had abundant "gastric distress" in the form of flatulence (more basically "farting")…and not the unnoticeable kind UGH! Now, I resort to sugar-free cough drops when I have a bad cold but I mostly stay away from stuff with sugar alcohols. (Besides, the sugar-free chocolate wasn't so hot—even from the local gourmet chocolatier) When I want a treat, I take a square of good quality Dark chocolate and plop a spoonful of natural peanut butter on it and it satisfies my craving without the stinky side effects. I also don't get bogged down by "Net carbs" and take the total carb value of the food I eat when calculating my insulin dosage…so far, so good!. Also, be careful of Lite or low-fat, no-fat products…they often contain more carbs than the regular version…just compare regular salad dressing with the lite or low-fat version. Thank heavens that we now have all that good nutrition information on the labels to help guide us. I do find Splenda or sucralose a good sugar alternative for me with none of the nasty side effects of the sugar alcohols.

Grammie_K#1 2011-02-01 22:40:00 -0600 Report

Thanks for the heads up spoug master. I'll watch for that. With so much of our diet including the ''Sugar Free'' offerings at the grocery store, I just felt this needed addressed, especially for the newly diagnosed. It can be so hard to get an understanding of what a diabetic needs to do and needs to stop. Some of it is misleading.
I've found that not all ''Sugar free'' is truly free. It's a tough call, and alot of experimentation goes into finding out what your individual body needs.

squog master
squog master 2011-02-01 21:10:28 -0600 Report

One thng about sugar alcohols is they often act like a laxative depending on how much you eat. But in my case Maltitol gives me severe stomach cramps with just a little of it. Bad enough to double over in bed for awhile. So I try to stay clear of all sugar alcohols.

Grammie_K#1 2011-02-01 18:40:35 -0600 Report

Lol, kdroberts. I thought the same thing, but the look on my doctor's face was priceless. It isn't often you can stump a doctor with a question on food like that, but this one did. I did print out the info from Hershey Co. when I first saw it and gave it to her. It helped her understand I really wasn't insane, just a little crazy, lol.
I did check out the wikipedia site. It defines the sugar alcohol, just uses alot of big techinical names. Would be nice if they covered what the common names of this stuff are. Like generic drugs, they have many differing names and hide in many places, like cake mixes and such.
Yet another common problem I have is defining 'No Sugar Added'. Just how much sugar is already in there? My grocery sells some wonderful candies that are no sugar added, but can't give me the answer on just how much is already there in the common ingredients. It is a vicious circle, for sure, lol.

kdroberts 2011-02-01 20:44:47 -0600 Report

Sugar alcohols always end in ol so chances are if there is an ingredient listed that ends in ol, its a sugar alcohol. Sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol and erythritol are common ones.

Just look at ingredients, you should be able to roughly figure out the carb content in the no added sugar products.

kdroberts 2011-02-01 15:02:20 -0600 Report

That's crazy that your doctors don't know what it is. Basically they are carbohydrates that have been chemically altered to t urn them into an alcohol. Not alcoholic but a chemical alcohol as in OH (oxygen and hydrogen group) bonded to a carbon. There are many different types of sugar alcohols, xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol are a few examples. They are not broken down by saliva so don't contribute to tooth decay and they are digested in the intestines rather than the stomach. They are tricky things because differing ones do different things to blood sugar to different people. A rule of thumb is you should count 50% of the carbs from sugar alcohols but you may find that you can count less or you may find you need to count them all. The biggest problem comes because they are digested in the intestines, too many of them can cause, lets put it politely, gastric distress!

I avoid them for the most part because other than in mint gum they don't taste very nice and generally the products that use them most (like sugar free cake mixes and candy) use a lot of them and/or have a lot of other carb in them. Beware though, the term "net carbs" is not legally defined so manufacturers are allowed to put things like "0 net carbs" on a product where all the sugar has been replaced by sugar alcohols even though for almost everyone the sugar alcohol will raise blood sugar to some degree.

Grammie_K#1 2011-02-01 14:49:23 -0600 Report

Thanks BandonBob, I'll check it out. I just think this is a hidden problem we all need to know about. Especially how it effects our nutrition.

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