sugar alcohol

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Also called polyols, chemical derivatives of sugars that differ from the parent compounds in having an alcohol group (CH2OH) instead of the aldehyde group (CHO); thus mannitol from mannose, xylitol from xylose, lacticol from lactulose (also sorbitol, isomalt, and hydrogenated glucose syrup). Several occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, and cereals. They range in sweetness from equal to sucrose to less than half. They provide bulk in foods such as confectionery (in contrast to intense sweeteners), and so are called bulk sweeteners. They are slowly and incompletely metabolized, and are tolerated by diabetics, and provide less energy than sugars: they are less cariogenic than sucrose. See also sweets, tooth-friendly.

The energy yields differ, but the EU has adopted an average value of 10 kJ (2.4 kcal) per gram for all sugar alcohols (compared with 4 for sugars). They are considered safe and have no specified Acceptable Daily Intake, meaning that they can be used in foods in any required amount; however, a fairly large amount, more than 20–50 g per day (varying with the rest of the diet and the individual), can cause gastro-intestinal discomfort and have a laxative effect. For labelling purposes they are included with carbohydrates, not sugars.

Subjects: Medicine and Health.

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