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September 5, 2003 - Carbohydrate Nutrition News

Sugar Alcohols and Diabetes: A Review


Wolever, T.M.S., Piekarz, A., Hollands, R., & Younker, K.

Canadian Journal of Diabetes, Dec 2002;26(4):356-362

Many foods sweetened with sugar alcohols (also know as polyols), such as isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol, are available today. Because of concerns about possible harmful effects, we reviewed government regulations and scientific literature on sugar alcohols. Although some sugar alcohols don not raise plasma glucose (PG), no long-term benefits regarding their ingestion have been established for people with diabetes. Replacing carbohydrates with sugar alcohols in foods may alter diet composition and adequacy. Since sugar alcohols are only partially digested and metabolized, intakes>10 to 20g/day may cause flatulence, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. Individuals relying on product label information to assist in carbohydrate counting could overestimate the amount of insulin required for a carbohydrate load. Further research is required to understand the health effects of sugar alcohols. In the meantime, it is recommended that the use of products containing large amounts of sugar alcohols be approached with caution and discussed with healthcare professionals on an individual basis.

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