“Polyols” or sugar alcohols are a number of different carbohydrates that are neither sugars nor alcohols–and are commonly used as artificial sweeteners in a range of products, from ice cream to chewing gum.
While these tasty sweeteners appear to be the perfect solution for both low-carb dieters and low-carb food producers, recent studies of sugar alcohols have painted a somewhat different picture.
To begin with, sugar alcohols are not entirely carb-free. Most studies have indicated that sugar alcohols contain approximately 1/2 to 1/3 the amount of calories as sugar–and in the form of carbohydrates.
In addition, studies have shown that sugar alcohols are absorbed by the small intestine, but the process is slower and fractured. This affects a rise in blood sugar, but again is smaller and more gradual than with sugar–and the rise tends to vary from person to person.
Sugar alcohols also have a laxative effect on some consumers. Since they are only partially absorbed, they bring water into the bowel–and undigested carbs into the colon, creating gas and bloating as the carbs are acted on by bacteria.
Over-consumption of sugar alcohols can often have an adverse effect on low-carb dieters, even when they can digest them properly. Sugar alcohols can trigger cravings in low-carb dieters, causing them to deviate from dietary restrictions.
In addition, sugar alcohols can often cause low-carb dieters to choose an unhealthy diet of sweets, which appear to be carb-free, over a varied diet that includes essential nutrients.
If you are currently on a low-carb diet and want to mix sugar alcohol products into your diet, it is very important that you monitor your total sugar alcohol intake–and keep it at a minimum while consuming a healthy diet.
One easy way to do this is to determine the total amount of carbs in sugar alcohol products you are consuming. You can do this by subtracting the amount of fat and protein calories per serving from the total amount of calories per serving. Simply multiply the grams of protein by four and the grams of fat by nine. Now subtract the sum of the two from the total amount of calories per serving.
Using these figures, you can determine whether carbs are being “hidden” in “carb-free” sugar alcohol products you consume, allowing you to make a better-informed decision that fits the prescriptions of your low-carb diet.