July 27, 2007, Newsletter Issue #112: Reduced Calorie Sweeteners - Sugar Alcohols

Tip of the Week

Sugar-alcohols do not actually contain alcohol, and are not true sugars. They are one type of lower calorie sweetener commonly used in sugar-free gums, candies and desserts, which is converted to both fats and carbohydrates in the liver.

Large quantities of sugar-alcohols can contribute to elevated cholesterol, and high blood sugars, especially if the blood sugar is already out of control.

Some examples of sugar-alcohols include:

* mannitol - a seaweed extract
* sorbitol - made from fruit sugars
* xylitol - birch wood extract

There are some identified health benefits to using sugar-substitutes, including: 1) decreased risk for ear and urinary infections, 2) decreased incidence of tooth decay, and 3) no impairment of immune function, which is seen with high levels of sugar consumption.

However, using sugar-alcohols also pose risk for some persons, including:

* worsening of Irritable Bowel Sundrome
* diarrhea
* nausea
* increased risk for disease of the
retina (specifically fructose)
* elevated triglycerides (bad
cholesterol)
* blood sugar spike if your blood
glucose is already high

For the diabetic, the risk for eye disease is a considerations that should not be taken lightly, and the concerns regarding blood sugar spikes and elevated triglycerides can make a strong case against the consumptions of sugar-alcohols.

Read the nutrition labels of gums and sugar-free candies for the type of sugar-free sweetener used, and consult your physician, Dietitian, Nutritionist or other healthcare provider for information about sugar-substitutes and their impact on your diabetes.


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