What Is Sugar Alcohol?

8 Min Read

Key Takeaways:

  • Digestive Discomfort: Sugar alcohols can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea, particularly in sensitive individuals or when consumed in large amounts.
  • Environmental Concerns: The production of sugar alcohols can have significant environmental impacts, including high water usage and increased carbon footprints.
  • Nutritional Trade-offs: While sugar alcohols reduce calorie intake and dental cavities, they may contribute to increased hunger and replace more nutritious options in the diet.


At ALOHA, we are committed to leading the way in health and wellness by providing innovative products that foster a healthier lifestyle. As nutritional experts, we recognize the significance of making educated dietary choices. Our goal is to guide you through the complexities of nutrition to enhance your well-being.

This piece will discuss sugar alcohols, a widely used substitute for traditional sugars. We will examine different types of sugar alcohols, outline their benefits, and describe their typical uses. Additionally, we will address potential side effects, compare them with natural sugars, and discuss their effects on blood sugar levels.

Types Of Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols are a type of reduced-calorie sweetener used in various foods and beverages. Common types include:

Xylitol: is derived from fruits and vegetables and is extensively used in sugar-free chewing gums and mints because of its dental benefits, such as reducing the risk of tooth decay. It is favored in oral hygiene products due to its ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause cavities.

Erythritol: stands out among sugar alcohols for its minimal calorie content and is less likely to cause digestive issues compared to other sugar alcohols, making it a preferred ingredient for food manufacturers. It is especially popular in low-calorie and sugar-free products because it provides a sweet flavor without the gastrointestinal side effects common to other sugar alcohols.

Sorbitol: sourced from glucose, is commonly found in diet foods and sugar-free candies. It can also function as a laxative when consumed in large amounts, which is important for consumers to consider when managing their intake.

Mannitol: used in sugar-free chocolates and confections, is known for its cooling effect that enhances flavor, similar to menthol. This property makes mannitol particularly appealing for use in confections and chewing gums, adding a unique sensory experience to these products.

Each of these sugar alcohols has unique properties and uses, making them versatile alternatives to sugar in a variety of dietary contexts.

Similarly, for those seeking healthier snack options without added sugars, our protein bars are an excellent choice. Made with natural sweeteners and designed to support your dietary goals, they offer both taste and nutrition. Explore our selection of protein bars at ALOHA to find the perfect snack for your healthy lifestyle.


Types Of Sugar Alcohols.


Potential Side Effects Of Sugar Alcohols


Digestive Issues

Digestive issues can arise from sugar alcohols because they are not completely absorbed by the body and instead reach the colon intact, where gut bacteria metabolize them. This process often produces gas and causes bloating, leading to discomfort and sometimes pain. For individuals with sensitive digestive systems or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), frequent consumption of foods containing sugar alcohol may worsen these symptoms.

Laxative Effect

Consuming sugar alcohols in large amounts can draw water into the bowels, exerting a laxative effect that leads to softer stools or diarrhea. This impact is especially pronounced with sorbitol and mannitol. It is recommended to moderate intake and pay attention to individual tolerance levels to avoid such adverse effects.

Allergic Reactions

Although rare, allergic reactions to sugar alcohols can occur. Symptoms might include skin reactions, such as hives or a rash, or more severe reactions like difficulty breathing. Individuals who suspect an allergy to sugar alcohol should consult healthcare providers and consider avoiding products containing these compounds.

How Sugar Alcohols Can Affect Your Body


Caloric Content Misunderstanding

Although sugar alcohols are marketed as low-calorie substitutes, they do still contain calories. Their consumption can mislead individuals who are counting calories or managing their weight, leading to potential overconsumption. It's important for consumers to be aware of this and consider the actual caloric content of sugar alcohols in their diet.

Impact On Gut Health

Frequent intake of sugar alcohols may negatively affect gut health by altering the balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. This disruption can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, gas, and discomfort. The changes in gut flora may also impact the broader digestive process, affecting nutrient absorption and overall health.

Feelings Of Lethargy

The incomplete absorption of sugar alcohols can also contribute to feelings of lethargy and fatigue. Because they are not fully digested, the body must expend additional energy to process them, which can detract from overall energy levels. This can leave individuals feeling tired and less alert, especially after meals high in sugar alcohols.


Feelings of Lethargy


Making Informed Choices: What To Look For Instead Of Sugar Alcohols


Natural Sweeteners

Natural sweeteners such as monk fruit are excellent alternatives that derive from plant sources and offer a sweet taste without the negative side effects of sugar alcohols. This option does not contribute to the usual spikes in blood glucose levels, making them safer for people with diabetes or those looking to manage their sugar intake. They are also calorie-efficient, providing sweetness without the extra calories associated with traditional sugar. Because they are derived naturally, these sweeteners are generally recognized as safe and suitable for a wide range of diets.

Fiber-Rich Sweeteners

Fiber-rich sweeteners not only sweeten foods but also provide the added benefit of dietary fiber, which promotes regularity and supports digestive health. These types of sweeteners enhance the gut microbiome by encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria, counteracting the potentially harmful effects of sugar alcohols on digestive wellness. They are particularly useful in products designed for health-conscious consumers, offering a dual benefit of sweetness and fiber content. Unlike sugar alcohols, fiber-rich sweeteners tend to be well-tolerated and do not usually lead to gastrointestinal distress.

ALOHA’s Approach: Providing Healthier Alternatives

ALOHA prioritizes the health and wellness of its customers by choosing ingredients that offer genuine nutritional benefits without the drawbacks associated with sugar alcohols. Instead of relying on these synthetic sweeteners, ALOHA utilizes natural, plant-based ingredients that enhance the flavor and health benefits of their products. This commitment extends to using whole food ingredients that are not only delicious but also sustainably sourced, supporting both individual health and environmental wellbeing.

By focusing on transparency and healthful alternatives, ALOHA ensures that each product is crafted to support a healthy lifestyle, aligning with the needs and values of health-conscious consumers. The avoidance of sugar alcohols is part of ALOHA’s broader mission to provide nourishing, straightforward, and clean food products that everyone can enjoy with peace of mind.

Final Thoughts

While sugar alcohols offer a lower-calorie alternative to traditional sugars, their potential digestive side effects cannot be ignored. These substances often cause bloating, gas, and discomfort, particularly for those with sensitive digestive systems or conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. The incomplete absorption of sugar alcohols may also disrupt gut health over time. 

For a healthier approach, natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit, or fiber-rich options that promote digestive wellness, might be better choices. As such, while sugar alcohols can be part of a balanced diet, their usage should be moderated to prevent adverse health effects. Careful consideration of their overall impact on health is crucial for maintaining long-term well-being.


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Frequently Asked Questions About What Is Sugar Alcohol

What are the common side effects of consuming sugar alcohols?

Sugar alcohols can lead to digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea, especially when consumed in large quantities. These symptoms occur because sugar alcohols are not fully absorbed by the body and ferment in the colon. Individuals with sensitive stomachs or conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be particularly affected.

Can sugar alcohols cause weight gain?

Although sugar alcohols have fewer calories than sugar, they are not calorie-free and can contribute to weight gain if consumed excessively. Overeating products containing sugar alcohols can lead to a higher caloric intake. Additionally, they can trigger cravings for more sweet foods, potentially leading to overeating.

Are there any long-term health risks associated with sugar alcohols?

Long-term consumption of high amounts of sugar alcohols may lead to chronic digestive problems and discomfort. Although there are no known severe long-term health risks directly linked to sugar alcohols, consistent overconsumption can negatively affect quality of life. Moderation is key in avoiding these potential issues.

Do sugar alcohols affect blood sugar levels in diabetics?

While sugar alcohols have a lower impact on blood sugar levels than regular sugar, they can still cause modest increases in blood glucose. Diabetics need to monitor their blood sugar levels closely when consuming products containing sugar alcohols. It’s essential to account for these when planning meals and snacks.

Why might sugar alcohols be considered less ideal for children?

Children are more sensitive to the laxative effects of sugar alcohols, which can cause diarrhea and discomfort. Moreover, consuming large amounts of sugar alcohols can displace other nutrient-dense foods in a child's diet. Parents should be cautious about the quantity of sugar alcohols in children's diets.

Are there environmental concerns related to the production of sugar alcohols?

The production of sugar alcohols, especially from corn and other biomass, can have significant environmental impacts. These include high water usage, deforestation for agricultural expansion, and the carbon footprint associated with their production. Sustainable practices are crucial to mitigate these impacts.

Can sugar alcohols lead to an increase in hunger and food intake?

Some studies suggest that sugar alcohols might not trigger the same fullness signals as regular sugars, potentially leading to increased hunger and subsequent food intake. This can counteract the purpose of using them as a diet aid. Consumers should be mindful of their body’s response to sugar alcohols.

How do sugar alcohols compare to natural sweeteners in terms of health risks?

Compared to natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit, sugar alcohols may pose more health risks, particularly regarding digestive health. Natural sweeteners generally do not cause the gastrointestinal issues associated with sugar alcohols. People often choose natural sweeteners for their cleaner health profile.

What is the impact of sugar alcohols on oral health besides reducing cavities?

While sugar alcohols like xylitol can reduce the risk of cavities, they may also cause dry mouth, particularly when used in chewing gums or mints. Saliva is essential for oral health as it helps prevent tooth decay and controls bacteria in the mouth. Thus, excessive consumption might not be beneficial for oral hygiene.

Are sugar alcohols suitable for everyone’s diet?

Sugar alcohols are not suitable for everyone, especially those with digestive issues or who are sensitive to laxative effects. People following specific diets like FODMAP may need to avoid them altogether due to their fermentable nature. It’s important to consult a healthcare provider before incorporating significant amounts of sugar alcohols into any diet.


 Mäkinen, K. K. (2011). Sugar Alcohol Sweeteners as Alternatives to Sugar with Special Consideration of Xylitol. Medical Principles and Practice, 20(4), 303–320. https://doi.org/10.1159/000324534

Hattori, K., Akiyama, M., Seki, N., Yakabe, K., Hase, K., & Kim, Y.-G. (2021). Gut Microbiota Prevents Sugar Alcohol-Induced Diarrhea. Nutrients, 13(6), 2029. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13062029

Msomi, N. Z., Erukainure, O. L., & Islam, Md. S. (2021). Suitability of Sugar Alcohols as Antidiabetic Supplements: A Review. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, 29(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.38212/2224-6614.3107

ALOHA's products are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure disease. ALOHA's products should not replace prescribed medications or the variety of foods important to a healthful diet.

Do not self-diagnose any health condition. Work with your healthcare provider to determine how best to achieve optimal health.

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