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The Truth about Maltitol

Updated on July 11, 2011

Maltitol Explained...

This lens explores the popular sugar substitute Maltitol. We'll discuss what Maltitol is, where it comes from, it's uses, health benefits, and even debunk some common misconceptions. Feel free to contribute by adding your thoughts and opinions at the bottom of this lens.

What is Maltitol? - What is it, where does it come from, and what is it used for?

Maltitol
Maltitol

Maltitol is a sugar substitute that is almost as sweet as sugar but with half the calories and carbs. Maltitol belongs to a family of sweeteners called Polyols. Polyols are prebiotics that naturally occur in berries, fruits, and vegetables. Prebiotics are not yet fully understood by scientists, but they are being researched for their value to improve gastro-intestinal health.

Polyols are also commonly known as sugar alcohols. Maltitol is called a sugar alcohol because it's molecule resembles that of alcohol-- However, there is no ethanol (alcohol) or sugar present.

Maltitol is derived from the hydrogenation of maltose, which comes from starch. Maltitol is most commonly derived from Corn but can also be derived from wheat.

Maltitol is mainly used as an alternative sweetener or sugar substitute and is 75% - 90% as sweet as sugar. It's taste is intensely similar to sugar but with half the calories. This makes maltitol a great substitute for individuals who are trying to lose weight by reducing calories. Maltitol also makes a great substitute for diabetics due to its low glycemic index (36).

Manufacturers of low calorie and diabetic safe foods use maltitol in chocolates, candies, baked goods and chewing gum. Because it helps making a creamy texture, Maltitol can also help in the reduction of fat for some recipes. A prime example for that is calorie reduced ice cream.

Maltitol Benefits - What are the advantages and health benefits to using Maltitol

For Weight Loss

One of the main benefits of maltitol is that its 75% - 90% as sweet as sugar but contains just half the calories of sugar. This makes maltitol and ideal sugar substitute for someone who is losing weight or living a low carb life style. In fact, Jorge Cruise, in his new book, The Belly Fat Cure, recommends using products containing Maltitol along with other substitute low carb sweeteners.

For Diabetes

Maltitol also has a glycemic index of 32, which is about half that of table sugar (Glycemic Index 60). The glycemic index is a measure of how fast a substance raises the blood sugar, an important factor for diabetics. Many diabetics use products sweetened with maltitol as a way to enjoy sweets without the subsequent rise in blood sugar that occurs when they eat foods containing sugar.

For Healthy Teeth

Maltitol can also help one avoid tooth decay. Chewing gum that is sweetened with Maltitol keeps the mouth's pH below 5.7, therefore it does not produce the harmful acids that attack tooth enamel as regular sugar does. The American Dental association recognizes that Maltitol and other sugar substitutes are beneficial in the avoidance of tooth decay, as has the FDA, which approves the use of labeling that bears the term "does not promote tooth decay" on products sweetened with maltitol.

Maltitol's lower glycemic index and fewer calories per gram, as well as its ability to help reduce cavities, makes it a perfect choice for individuals trying to control their weight, blood sugar or both.

Maltitol Side Effects

Is Maltitol safe and what are it's side effects?

When consumed in excess, products that contain Maltitol have been reported to cause intestinal discomfort, gas, and a laxative effect. The key here is excess. A small portion of individuals experience gas and bloating after eating products sweetened with maltitol, and those who eat very large quantities may experience diarrhea. The FDA recommends a daily limit of 100 grams. This is the equivalent of about four full-size nutritional bars. So if you plan on eating a whole box of nutritional bars or chocolates made with Maltitol, you may have some issues.

However, these side effects are not limited to Maltitol. Almost all fruits and many foods you consume everyday will have a laxative effect if enjoyed in too large quantities. Pears, vanilla, bananas and many other foods will impact your digestion in similar ways.]

The FDA has listed Maltitol on the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) list.

Many studies in both humans and animals have shown positive results with regards to maltitol's safety as a food additive. In addition, The JECFA (Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives) has given Maltitol its highest safety rating, and has stated that no limits need be placed on the use of maltitol.

Maltitol is safe, however, as with everything... consume it in moderation.

Maltitol & Diabetes

Is Maltitol safe for diabetics?

Generally speaking, products made with Maltitol are diabetic friendly. However, it's wise to consult your physician before eating anything new or anything you're not familiar with.

Maltitol has a lower glycemic index than sugar and is more slowly absorbed than sugar, so that a rise in blood sugar and the related insulin response is decreased. This allows diabetics to enjoy a wider variety of maltitol sweetened treats than they might otherwise be allowed.

Given that the total number of diabetics is expected to rise from 171 million in 2000 to 366 million in 2030 (Diabetes Care, 2004), maltitol can be a valuable tool in the fight against this global health problem. Maltitol's lower glycemic index and fewer calories per gram, makes it an ideal choice for individuals trying to control or reduce their blood sugar.

Maltitol & Gluten

Does Maltitol contain gluten and is it considered gluten free by FDA standards?

As some maltitol is derived from wheat, people frequently ask if this Maltitol is gluten free. Typically, maltitol derived from wheat goes through a process where the gluten is washed out with starch making it by FDA standards "gluten free."

Which Sugar Substitute do you Prefer?

Choose one of the options below:

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We know this subject is somewhat controversial and depending on who you talk to you'll get varied information. We'd like to invite both those who share our views and those who disagree with our assessment of Maltitol to leave your thoughts below.

What do you think? - Enter your comments, suggestions, questions or feedback here:

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    • profile image

      Terry 18 months ago

      I use all artificial sweeteners. And with type 2 diabetes I notice no blood sugar spikes. And occasional loose stools if I over do it, but nothing earth shaking!

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      Jan 2 years ago

      I woke up in severe pain all over my body. That is when I went online to see what this product is made of. I am allergic to corn. It says it can be derived from corn or wheat. I guess it was corn.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      xylitol has my vote..great for oral health and combats tooth decay, it is a little sweeter than sugar but you can't make meringue with it as it dose not caremaliseâ¦

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Bought peanut butter cups with Maltitol. No noticeable side effects and were delicious. I am diagnosed prediabetic, so the the low GI number is also nice to know. Appreciated the product.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      My family uses, pure maple sugar, coconut sugar crystals, Agave syrup, honey and xylitol for sugar substitues. And we are very happy with these mostly natural sugar substitutes!

    • applesandoranges profile image
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      applesandoranges 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Poison? No. Even fruits, grains and herbs can cause intestinal discomfort, gas, and similar side effects like you described. However, they are not poison.

      Most maltitol sweetened toffees, caramels, and candies (especially the cheap stuff you get at the grocery store) are made with maltitol derived from corn. This type of maltitol can be harsher on your system and cause undesired, yet harmless side effects like ones you experienced. Not all Maltitol is created equal and not all maltitol sweetened products are either. So if you're sensitive to maltitol, avoid the cheap stuff made from corn and look for the wheat derived maltitol. Or, just avoid it all together. However, Maltitol is and can be a healthier alternative for those looking to replace sugar in their diet.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I ate a toffee candy that contained Maltitol. Didn't realize I had eaten sugar free candy until I was extremely ill that night. I only ate 5 pieces of the candy. I was back and forth to the bathroom for four hours!!! I could have had a colonoscopy the next day I was so "cleaned" out. This Maltitol stuff is poison!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have given up eating sugar and I avoid all foods that contain sugar or any artificial sweeteners. It was nice to find that there are natural substitutes to sugar! :-)

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      happynutritionist 6 years ago

      Interesting information, blessed and will be added to the lens "Diet and Nutrition Squid Angel" in a little while:-)

    • applesandoranges profile image
      Author

      applesandoranges 6 years ago

      @Khaleeka: Khaleeka, thanks for your contribution. This is true, and more commonly in Type 1 Diabetics. Maltitol can affect different people in different ways. I've talked to diabetics that can eat maltitol with no problems and others that do experience spikes in blood sugar or even intestinal discomfort.

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      Khaleeka 6 years ago

      Great lens, but a word of warning for diabetics... For certain people, this substance is metabolized like normal sugar so beware! I can eat regular chocolate without trouble, but if it contains maltitol, my sugars go through the roof.

      Blessings from a squid angel.