Ask the Nutritionist: The Scoop on Sugar Alcohols

Q: What are sugar alcohols and how do they impact Net Carb count?

A: Many low-carb products are sweetened with a form of sugar called sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols come in the form of ingredients such as glycerin, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, isomalt, lactitol and maltitol. Sugar alcohols provide a sweetness and mouth feel similar to sugar, without all the calories and unwanted metabolic effects. Sugar alcohols are not fully absorbed by the gut, which means they provide roughly half the calories that sugar does. Thanks to this incomplete and slower absorption, there is a minimal impact on blood sugar and insulin response. Because of this, sugar alcohols don’t significantly interfere with fat burning, which makes them acceptable on Atkins. However, since a portion of sugar alcohols aren’t fully absorbed in the gut, there is the potential that consuming too much may produce a laxative effect or cause some gastrointestinal problems. Most people can usually handle 20 to 30 grams a day. To calculate Net Carb count with sugar alcohols, simply subtract grams of sugar alcohols (including glycerin), as well as fiber, from total grams of carbs.