Maltitol: What You Should Know About This Common Sweetener

Maltitol is a sugar substitute found in many foods with side effects that may include a variety of digestive problems including diarrhea, gas, and abdominal discomfort.


Maltitol is a sugar alcohol. It is about 90 percent as sweet as sugar but contains a little over half of the calories.

A lot of people want to decrease their sugar intake, and with good reason; too much sugar can increase your chances of dementia, contribute to osteoporosis, and more. But are artificial sweeteners, such as maltitol, the way to go?

There are a multitude of alternatives to sugar, including stevia, agave, coconut sugar, and artificial sweeteners.

The most commonly used artificial sweeteners used commercially are sugar alcohols, like xylitol and maltitol. These sweeteners are not derived from alcohol but have a similar chemical structure. Before you eat too many sugar-free products, you should be aware of the side effects of maltitol.

What Is Maltitol?

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol. It is about 90 percent as sweet as sugar but contains a little over half of the calories. It also has a lower glycemic index than sugar, so it may be preferable for preventing blood sugar spikes. It is considered non-digestible, which means that bacteria in the mouth cannot metabolize it, helping protect against dental caries.

What Foods Contain Maltitol?

Maltitol can be found in sugar-free sweets:

It also can be found in gelatin capsules, and so can be an ingredient in many supplements. Although it has half the glycemic index of table sugar, maltitol can raise blood sugar if eaten in large amounts over time.

Maltitol Side Effects

While this artificial sweetener does have some advantages over table sugar, such as a lower caloric value and glycemic index (maltitol has a glycemic index of 35, while table sugar has a high glycemic index), it is not completely safe to consume in large amounts. Consumption is associated with a variety of digestive disturbances.

One study compared products containing regular sugar and those containing maltitol. They found that after eating the products with maltitol, participants in the study reported significantly higher gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal discomfort, flatulence (gas), and bloating.

Other maltitol dangers include diarrhea; maltitol is considered a laxative when consumed in large amounts and is associated with frequent diarrhea. Maltitol foods with more than 50 grams per serving are required to include a laxative warning.

Maltitol has been linked to the worsening of irritable bowel syndrome.

Alternative Options for Sweeteners

Although maltitol can be safe to eat in small amounts, there are many other alternative sweeteners you can try instead if you want to reduce your sugar intake while avoiding gastrointestinal symptoms at the same time.

Try these in your next recipe and see how you like them:

  • Dates
  • Coconut sugar
  • Agave
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Stevia

Originally published in 2015, this post is regularly updated.

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UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

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