Maltitol

A diabetic diet needn't be 100% sugar-free
Maltitol - also part of a bulk sweetener called Polyol (Sugar Alcohol)

Maltitol is part of a family of bulk sweeteners called sugar alcohols (polyols). It is about 90% as sweet as sugar (sucrose) and is very similar in taste, but boasts significantly less calories (only 2.1 calories per gram).

For these reasons, maltitol is commonly used in the production of a variety of low-calorie, low-fat and sugar-free foods.

Produced by the hydrogenation of maltose, which is obtained from starch, maltitol produces a noticeable cooling sensation in the mouth and, like other polyols, does not brown or caramelize when heated.

Benefits of Maltitol

Maltitol's advantages include it being non-cariogenic and having fewer calories than sugar.

Does not contribute to tooth decay

Like other polyols, maltitol is non-cariogenic - i.e. is not metabolised by oral bacteria which break down sugars and starches to release acids that may lead to cavities or the erosion of tooth enamel.

This oral health benefit of maltitol and other sugar alcohols is recognised by various health groups/associations across the globe.

Fewer calories than sugar

Because maltitol is slowly absorbed by the body, part of the ingested substance reaches the large intestine where metabolism yields fewer calories. As a result, maltitol has just 2.1 calories per gram (kcal/g), nearly half of the caloric value of sucrose (4.0 kcal/g), and is therefore useful in the production of sugar-free products, especially sucrose-free chocolate, confectionery and ice cream.

Maltitol and other polyols are recognised as reduced-calorie sweeteners/alternatives to sugar by the European Union (EU) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Beneficial for people with diabetes

Maltitol significantly reduces the rise in blood glucose and insulin levels associated with the ingestion of glucose as it is slowly absorbed.

This combined with its low calorie value makes maltitol-sweetened, sugar-free food a good option for people with diabetes (control of blood glucose, weight and lipids are the main targets of diabetes management).

Before opting for foods sweetened with sugar alcohols such as maltitol, diabetics should discuss the usefulness of these polyols with their GP/diabetes specialist as some of these products may contain other ingredients which may not be suitable for a diabetes-based diet.

Safety

In 1985, a comprehensive assessment of sweeteners was produced by the Scientific Committee for Food of the European Union (EU), which concluded that maltitol is safe for use as a food additive.

While there is no daily intake limit placed on its use, very high consumption of the substance (over 100 grams per day) may cause a laxative effect, as with other polyols.

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