Q: I swim most mornings before work and keep protein bars in my filing cabinets to eat along with a piece of fruit for breakfast afterwards. I love the thinkThin High Protein Bars in the chocolate fudge flavor but was confused about the presence of Sugar Alcohol. They advertise 0g sugar (something I love about this protein bar) but what are the 12g of sugar alcohol? Is it better or worse than other sugars? Am I being mislead by package advertising and am better off eating a different bar with some grams of sugars vs this one with sugar alcohol?
A: Great question, Cindy! What are sugar alcohols?
the product is labeled as “sugar-free” or “no added sugar.” And with these products gaining popularity, you’ll be seeing sugar alcohols popping up more and more often on nutrition labels.
- Fewer calories- because sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed by the body, they provide fewer calories than regular sugar.
- Heat stable- they do not lose their sweetness when heated like many artificial sweeteners do
- Retain moisture in products- they keep foods like energy bars from getting hard and brittle
- No dental caries- sugar alcohols don’t promote tooth decay as sugars do because they’re not metabolized by the bacteria that cause dental caries. In fact, they are often used to sweeten chewing gum and xylitol specifically inhibits bacterial growth in the mouth.
- GI upset- because sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed, they pass through the small intestine and are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. This can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea.
- May not end up saving calories- Be sure to check the total carbohydrates in your products. Some manufacturers of sugar free products may use a large amount of sugar alcohols, which drives the calorie count up, defeating the purpose.
- May end up consuming more fat- you’ll also want to check the fat content on the nutrition
labels. To add flavor, there is often more saturated and or trans fat in sugar free baked products.