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. Theses 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.
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 like gum, chocolate, ice cream, and baked goods. 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 maltitol does have some advantages over table sugar, such as a lower caloric value and 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.[1,3] Maltitol foods with more than 50 grams per serving are required to include a laxative warning.
Maltitol has been linked to worsening of irritable bowel syndrome.
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:
- Coconut sugar
- Brown rice syrup
Share Your Experience
We personally like coconut sugar in place of brown sugar, and agave or brown rice syrup in recipes like rice crispy treats (try this recipe for Crisped Rice Bird’s Nests). What are your favorite alternatives to sugar? Have you ever experienced side effects from maltitol? Share your thoughts on both dangers and benefits in the comments section below.
For related reading, visit these posts:
- Natural Sugar Substitute Stevia Benefits Bone Health and More
- Aspartame Side Effects: Recent Research Confirms Reasons for Concern
- The Diet Soda/Weight Gain Link: How Artificial Sweeteners Are Messing With Your Metabolism
Originally published in 2015, this post is regularly updated.