Sunday, March 26, 2006

Beware Of Sneaky Sugar Alcohols

If you see maltitol in your low-carb food, then avoid it completely

I constantly tell people READ THE LABELS on anything that purports to be low-carb. That keeps you from falling prey to a dishonest marketing tactic implored by many food companies to get people who are livin' la vida low-carb to buy their products. They use phrases like "no sugar carbs" or even put "low carb" right on the box and it's anything but.

However, something else you should look out for when you are reading nutritional labels is the ingredients list. I discuss this topic in my book, but it annoys me to no end for a sugar-free candy company to proudly display the Splenda symbol on the front of their packaging and then use a sugar alcohol such as maltitol as the primary sweetener. That's false advertising if you ask me!

For those of you who have never consumed anything made with maltitol (believe me, you would know if you did!), this sugar alcohol is one of the worst sugar alternatives known to man. If you don't mind (excuse the graphic but accurate description) pooping and flatulating your brains out for hours after eating something with maltitol in it, then EAT UP!

But most people find this nasty side effect just a wee bit too uncomfortable to indulge too often in products containing maltitol. I know I try to avoid them as much as possible myself because the gas they cause is very painful and disgusting.

One of my faithful readers shared with me her recent experience after accidentally consuming maltitol:

The other day while on the road, I stopped at a truck stop, and they had fudge and sugar-free fudge for sale. My dormant sweet tooth kicked in, and I got a pound of the sugar-free kind. I consumed a 2-inch square of this fudge and it was yummy!

Unfortunately, I neglected to ask what was in the sugar-free fudge, and boy did I pay for it later! I was up all night with incredible intestinal problems that were only relieved when I got very sick. I'm sure, like most sugar-free chocolate candy, it was loaded with maltitol. I'd eaten a small bit of candy with maltitol several months ago and knew how bad it would affect me.

I guess this is just a good reminder to ALWAYS check what sweetener is used in anything labeled sugar-free. Splenda is best, erythritol is okay, and aspartame and maltitol are no-nos! Now if we can only get the candy and soft drink manufacturers to follow along!

Amen! I've long held the belief that Russell Stover could replace the maltitol syrup that they use in their excellent line of sugar-free/low-carb chocolates with erithyritol, Splenda and/or ACE-K. But will they listen to me? Noooooooooo! The only way to make them change is for enough people to write them a letter sharing their concerns about maltitol and simultaneously boycotting the purchase of their products until they change. If they feel it in their pocketbook, then they will heed your opinions.

The lesson here is to always be cognizant of what is in the foods you are eating. Although you don't have to count the carbs in the sugar alcohols you consume while livin' la vida low-carb, there are better ones out there to enjoy without the unpleasant side effects that come from maltitol. Try erythritol or oligofructose instead.

I went out to a popular ice cream place in Spartanburg, South Carolina with my wife the other day called Bruester's. They had a sugar-free raspberry chocolate ice cream that looked delicious and it was. When I inquired what the sugar substitute was they told me it was sweetened with Splenda, but I knew it had maltitol in it as well a little later on when my stomach started break dancing an hour after I ate it.

It just goes to show you how important reading those labels can be so you can beware of sneaky sugar alcohols!


Blogger Newbirth said...

Most people have to consume more than 20g of malitol in one sitting to get that effect. You may be more sensitive than others. I've only had the effects you talk about once, after eating half a box of sugar free candy on Christmas Eve. So now if I want to indulge, I spread it out.

I avoid sugar alcohols of all kinds, but it's not because it has intestinal side effects. It's because it always causes the scale to go up, stalling my weight loss efforts.

But to say that "you would know" is simply wrong. Most people aren't super sensitive. Even after 7 or 8 pieces of Russell Stover I have only the most mild of effects, mostly just some gas.

Just because YOU are extra-sensitive to it doesn't mean that everybody is. As I said, it took half a box of candy to make me sick. A few pieces do nothing to me, and I think my reaction is the rule rather than the exception.

3/26/2006 10:48 PM  
Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

I've also experienced the downside of malitol. I doesn't take much at all for me.

I once had to take time of work because of a reaction.

I avoid malitol like the plague!

3/27/2006 1:03 AM  
Blogger Hannah Sutter said...


Glad you highlight the issue that we first spotted when founding GoLower. Just to point out that removing sugar and looking for another bulking agent to give the sweetness is very hard! Although Splenda is an option it is so sweet that you are still left with a great deal of "sugar bulk" eg weight to replace. I am glad to see that Inulin and FOS are taking this place for most manufacturers. In candy there isnt much option since you need to produce a maillard reaction(browning) in the toffee.

My advice if it says "sugar free" there is usually a hidden nasty that is going to get you later!

Go Lower

3/27/2006 4:48 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Hey Victoria,

I would be willing to bet that most people are sensitive to the effects of maltitol. Anyone else have a good experience eating maltitol-sweetened products like Victoria has? I'm interested in knowing.

3/27/2006 8:27 AM  
Blogger TanyaT said...

I think most people are a lot more sensitive than 20 grams. I'm not that sensitive but around 10 grams is enough to give me stomach pains - and I have also noticed that the effects, for me, are cumulative over a short period of time. For example, 4 grams today - no problem - 4 grams tomorrow, maybe no problems - but the next time - that's it!

Hannah - I think tagatose is a new viable option as a bulk sweetener (I have done a little research on it, and I liked what I saw).

Great discussion!

3/27/2006 10:16 AM  
Blogger Kevin Dorren said...


Thanks for the comments on Tagatose, the only issue it is metabolised in the same was as Fructose. Although there is no effect on blood sugar levels there is an adverse effect in the liver (general increase in LDL in most subjects).

Keep looking!

3/27/2006 2:29 PM  
Blogger branruadh said...

I have no problems consuming maltitol when I stick to standard servings as listed on the package (and I tend to eat less than they say is reasonable). Lactitol is far more likely to give me gas.

And no, Splenda and Ace-K cannot substitute for a sugar alcohol. They are too different in their physical effects on the food they're used in. Sugar alcohols like maltitol provide texture similar to sugar as well as sweetening effects in items like caramels and mint filling. Splenda and Ace-K only provide sweetening.

3/27/2006 11:32 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Scalliwag said...

I have to agree that, in my case at least, very little is more than enough. A dozen sugar-free jellybeans a few weeks ago (they were some kind of no-name, generic, bulk brand) was enough to cause a whole night's GI distress. Not worth it. I can get my "sweet" fix from a serving of yogourt and berries topped with a bit of granulated Splenda and have no ill effects . . .

3/28/2006 6:50 AM  
Blogger 1Peter3 said...

I have problems with maltitol too, and it doesn't take anywhere near 20 grams of it to cause a reaction - maybe 4 grams won't cause problems for me (on a good day), but 6 will. Every time I read the sugar alcohol content on some Russell Stover (as well as many other brands of chocolate or sweets), I nearly double up just from the mere suggestion of putting a single serving of those products into my system!

Worse than maltitol though, is sorbitol - why on earth is that *still* being used so often in so many sugar free sweets?

I was also shocked to see sugar alcohols (sorbitol) being used in Dreamfields pasta - what gives? Why would pasta even need to be sweetened?! I'm a label reader from waaaay back, so that went back on the shelf immediately.

3/28/2006 10:41 AM  
Blogger TESS said...

I have not found malitol to cause any problem as long as I don't use more than recomended. I have read where there is controversy concerning malitol. It seems that they now beieve it does affect blood sugar so I am staying away from it. I have found a good chocoalate bar made by Carbsense, ok Eat Well Be Well(what a dumb name) No sugar alcohol. I had the dark choc with soy crisps and it was quite good. Relatively inexpensive at $1.30. It had 4 carbsnet,used splenda, and had 180 calories. Not for everyday since I watch calories as well as carbs-more a maintenence type treat.

3/28/2006 5:49 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

I use the same chocolate bars Tess uses. Malitol causes weight gain for me, so I try to steer clear except for special occations.

Tomorrow is my 2 year anniversary on Atkins and I celebrated by going out to lunch today. Afterwards I went to the ice cream shop. They had no sugar free ice cream, but they did have little packets of sugar free chocolates. I'm sure they had malitol. Three candies and no ill effects. :)

3/28/2006 8:40 PM  
Blogger ferretsnax said...

Splenda is made with chlorine atoms, and is toxic!
I would personally have bad gas/loose stool, than be poisoned.

but I would say stick to stevia or xylitol

7/18/2006 10:34 PM  
Blogger GallerUSA said...

Everybody's constitution is different and that should be taken into account when talking about how bad Maltitol might be.

We think the positives should be mentioned as well. Firstly, it is all-natural and derived from malt. So if you can't stomach maltitol, you might have problems with beer as well. But I would always recommend a natural product over one that is artificial or synthetic. Secondly, it has the same characteristics to sugar with regard to mass, so it is ideal as a substitute in cooking. Maltitol has no after-taste, like its artificial counterparts. And lastly, it does not cause Caries (tooth or bone decay and crumbling). These attributes make for a outstanding alternative to sugar for those that can stomach it.

If you want to convince people of a position, it is best to offer both sides of the story and let individuals decide for themselves.

Thank you for the time, space and consideration.

Galler USA

8/25/2006 6:45 PM  
Blogger Galler, 'The' Belgian Chocolate said...

Our login was only semi-correct above. Not sure what happened, but we want to be honest about who we are...and the profile link was not us.
Sorry for the additional space.
Galler USA

8/25/2006 6:54 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Dear Galler,

THANK YOU for your comments, but I don't ANY responsibility whatsoever to "offer both sides of the story" about ANYTHING I write about here at my blog. That's not my job and never has been.

If you have been reading it for any length of time, then you would know that I am the author of the content and the opinions and ideas expressed in this forum is what I feel.

With that said, if my columns spur you to learn more for yourself about whatever the topic I wrote about, then you have all the rights in the world to go do a Google search and find out more.

My goal with this blog is to keep it real from my perspective and the reality is maltitol should be renamed gastricdistressitol! Sure, it may work well for some people who can stomach it, but that's not good either because it means their body is absorbing it just like it would sugar.

Kinda defeats the purpose of having a sugar alternative, don't ya think?

Again, THANK YOU for your comments, but I am not about to feel guilty about sharing MY opinion at MY blog about whatever I feel. If you want to share BOTH sides of the issues, then you have every right to create your OWN blog.

8/26/2006 9:18 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

I think Splenda is the least bad of all the substitutes, and I too, HATE seeing their endorsement on items that are full of sweet laxitive. Maybe someday they'll recognize this and come up with a marketting campaign that uses a new SPLENDA-ONLY SWEETENED

"Splenda is made with chlorine atoms"

Uh, yeah, so is table salt. Sodium and chlorine are about the most toxic elements known to man south of plutonium. But if you don't have any table salt somewhere in your diet, you'll soon die due to the absence of this "toxic atom."

Splenda's "chlorine atoms" are covalently bonded to the carbon atoms of the molecule, making it a poly-chloro-carbon (PCC), and yes, lots of chlorocarbons are real toxic (ike TCE) but Splenda isn't "poisonous" the way those solvents are: Splenda's insoluble in fat and in the body, it doesn't break down (metabolized into simpler compounds, like Aspertame is). And it doesn't lose it's "chlorine atoms" like, um, say, table salt. In fact, my math is in round numbers, but if you live to be 100, eating 500 servings of Splenda a day, every day of your life, you will consume less "chlorine atoms" in your diet than from a single jar of pickles. And unlike the pickles' "chlorine atoms" they will leave your body still connected to the carbon atoms that they came in.

9/01/2006 5:31 PM  
Blogger Fred Scuttle said...

Hoo Boy! That explains it! I bought some great low-carb chocolate from Trader J's and noted that the whole bar supposedly contained 2 net carbs. Naturally, my wife and I daintily took one little piece each and congratulated ourselves on our restraint, and nibbled a tiny bit off a corner while making little bunnylike nose-squinchy giggles and shrugs at our naughtiness.

The next thing I knew the chocolate bar was gone in a brownish blur, there were pieces of wrapper in our teeth and strewn about the floor and our faces and furniture were smeared with grubby chocolatey finger-smudges. Ah, how we giggled yet again at our own weakness and utter humanity, and promised to make the next one last a little longer than 1.3 seconds.

Skip to three hours later. The boulder-shivering cacaphony reverberating in our living room can best be described as sounding like an orchestral tuba section warming up, a dirigible rupturing and the earthy blatting tones of a fleet of diesel semis throwing on the "jake brakes" on a long downhill stretch, with the odd bassoon glissando thrown in to provide color, and flutey, schoolgirlish "skirt-lifter" flourishes blupping and twittering periodically from beneath my erstwhile lifemate. (I recall remarking at one point how impressed I was with her vibrato.)

I have never had gas so bad in my life. Not even close, and in my family "pull my finger" is considered a cooing utterance of affection, followed by the inevitable sound of a watermelon breaking in half.

The cramps alone were excruciating, much less the sore stomach muscles from simultaneously moaning in pain and roaring with laughter, which caused an odd "putt-putt" style of nether-zephyr to emerge in staccato trumpet-blasts from our hindquarters, eliciting further torture to our already weakened respiratory systems and testing the resiliency of our nether embouchures, lest a NASA-style catastrophe occur from "blowing an 'O-ring'".

We were on all fours, barking from both ends. Not a pretty sight.

Or smell. You'll just have to imagine that, for words can only fail to deliver an accurate account of such a horrendous assault on the olfactory organs, save to those who work in sewage treatment facilities or overcrowded South American prisons. If you need a prompt for a realistic simulation to catalog in your own mental flatulence-file, hold a teenager's wet sneaker up to one nostril and a freshly-opened bag of pork rinds to the other in a kitchen where cabbage is being overcooked. Then you might BEGIN to suggest a vague guess as to the essence.

Until I read this review and understood the magical hurricane-producing properties of maltitol on the digestive system, I had no idea why we had spontaneously erupted like a wind section in a John Cage score. We thought we had somehow insulted the Aztec gods of the bean harvest or something. Now that we know, we will avoid the detestable sugar-fraud in favor of something kinder to our poor abused starfish and easier on our laundry bill.

9/12/2006 10:48 PM  
Blogger Terri said...

Oh my Lord, I'm reviving your entry simply to pay homage to Fred Scuttle's post... that was priceless, and I do hope you're a paid writer using that power for good!

My experience with Maltitol came the Easter of I believe 2005, my first low-carb Easter, and I wanted my family gathering to be "safe" for me and my like-minded family members so I bought a variety of low-carb candies from Russell Stover (only the best would do, *of course*). Casually snacking on these little morsels (not snarfing), we did appreciate the taste. We did *not* however appreciate the after-effects - mind-boggling gut gas. Much of our family discussion moved outdoors for a time, and it took a while to realize what was going on. Some time later the fight for the bathrooms began.

A google of the ingredients the next day found maltitol being sold as a laxative in, I believe, Poland. I was floored. I took back the unopened packages of candies to the store where I'd bought them, told customer service what had happened, and told the lady I thought this particular variety of candy should be moved to the pharmacy section.

Thanks, Jimmy Moore, for the blog entry. I hadn't seen it addressed so completely anywhere before. BTW, we share the same family name; perhaps it's a family gut problem.



2/14/2007 10:42 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS, Terri! Fred was INDEED hilarious in his response. AVOID THE MALTITOL! :D

2/14/2007 10:50 AM  
Blogger jenniffer said...

Beware new product!

I was up until 4 a.m. last night, sick as a dog. Why? An impulse purchase of Life Saver's new Fruit Tarts candy. I had no more than 8-10 very small pieces (not much bigger than a Tic Tac). But I neglected to note that maltitol was one of the ingredients, and boy, did I pay for it.

As I was lying on my bed in agony, listening to the truly awe-inspiring gurgles coming from my lower abdomen, I was distantly amazed that my body was strong enough to endure the level of distress caused by such a tiny amount of maltitol. The pain caused by the gut-wrenching cramps is more severe than anything else I've experienced, including breaking bones.

Here's the nutrition info:

4/03/2007 3:07 PM  
Blogger mirihawk said...

I too cannot tolerate maltitol in any amount at all. (20 grams would probably KILL me!) The gas is terrifying, the running to the bathroom is ridiculous, and the whole thing is a waste of my time.

I would like the makers of things with maltitol in it to have to put some sort of emblem next to the Splenda one...perhaps a toilet seat would be appropriate?

4/21/2007 8:41 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

My experience with Maltitol happened just today at work. I bought some Sugar-free Mentos just the other day, and was relieved to see the Splenda emblem proudly displayrd on the package...I have had problems with other artificial sweetners, so i thought I was safe.
So, while I was busy serving food on a busy lunch shift, I snacked on the box of candy. Mind you, this was a small package---maybe 15 pieces or so.
Well, and hour into my shift, my stomach started to do that dreaded gurgle and roll, and I knew immediately I was in trouble.
I literally had to run to the bathroom, lest I "sharted" in my pants.
It was totally awful. I felt disgusting having explosive diarrhea while serving food, and the gas and bloating were so terrible I had to undo my pants.

Upon closer inspection of the box, in all capital letters I noticed (too late), this disclaimer:

That's nice. Glad to know that candy now has the ability to make me shit my pants.

6/13/2007 7:39 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

Hi, I just ate a small piece of Hershey's chocolate candy and I too ended up with uncontrollable gas and abdominal pains. I was so happy when I found a sugarfree chocolat with 2 g of fiber per serving and low glycemic (that's what it said on the cover. My question is what type of candy can I eat without Maltitol or other bad sugars in 'm. I have that sugar craving so often and don't know what to do with it. Also, I'm trying to give my children as less as sugar as I possibly can, but it's so hard, since kids like candy. Please give me some good advice on how to avoid sugar, good and bad ones....

7/25/2007 2:46 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

The longer you go without sugar, the less you'll want it. MAKE yourself realize that sugar is RAT POISON and you wouldn't eat rat poison. Check out my friend Connie Bennett's SUGAR SHOCK! blog to find helpful tips about overcoming your sugar addiction.

7/25/2007 2:56 PM  
Blogger brett said...

Bought some sugar free Gummy Bears - a small package from CVS - less than 3.5 oz but had 35 grams of Maltitol in them - first time for me and the last - worst stomach problems of my life - up all night and almost had to call in sick - I was very worried that something worse was happening until I read about the devil syrup.
brett Austin, Texas

11/27/2007 8:10 PM  
Blogger nepeta said...

those weeks I've been eating ricola candies and I got diarrhea and stomachache, on the packs of the candies they only say that when eaten in excess they can be laxative, but they say nothing about stomachache

3/25/2008 12:48 PM  
Blogger nepeta said...

btw, I never had problems when I ate 1 atkins milk chocolate bar, but the day I ate a small pack of ricola my stomach and intestines freaked out

3/25/2008 12:52 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

While I have never had any negative effects from my intake of maltitol, I generally stick to stevia and xylitol. Xylitol can have a laxative affect if eaten in large loses, but a tolerance does quickly built up to it. Stevia and agave nectar are still popular on my list.

There are too many risks involved with artificial sweeteners like Splenda in my opinion.

9/29/2008 12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Newbirth!!!

Just because HE has a problem with it the whole industry should cater to HIS whims... as a matter of fact, I have a problem with Splenda. It gives me severe joint pain. So, author, what do you say to that? I say the industry should eliminate Splenda-- seems we were all a lot more fit and eating a lot less crap before Splenda came along.

1/14/2009 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to sound confused about all of this, but, it sounds like Maltitol is being compared to Spenda in this article. Are you saying Maltitol is as toxic as Splenda? Is Maltitol another code name for Splenda?

1/20/2009 7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always been leery of using any other sweetener than nutrasweet, since my body knows what it will, and will not, tolerate.
Last evening, I unwittingly chewed ONE piece of gum that contained Maltitol.I did not feel the effects until the end of the movie that my friend and I were watching (about one hour later).
Last evening, and then, again, today, I have had the most horrible stomach and intestinal pains; pains that I had forgotten about since I had tried to be more careful about reading food labels.
Since I was recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes, I guess I thought, "well I cannot have much sucrose, so what is one piece of gum?"
Sorry to say, I would rather look for alternative ways to sweeten my food, being extremely careful about both sugar and matitol content. Since my best friend has been dealing with the pre-diabetes problem for a couple of years, I have noticed that she will be "sugar free" for days, and then allow herself a sweet such as a piece of dark chocolate. I guess that is the safest way to deal with blood sugar, without gastric side effects.

4/05/2009 1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The biggest problem is in bubble gum because you most gum is sugar free. Ice Breakers Raspberry Sorbet gum has the trademark "Whoa!" because it tastes so sweet and good, but an hour later its Whoa! in a whole other way.

Watch out for sugar-free gum!

5/14/2009 11:55 PM  
Anonymous G. Larravide said...

visit "Say No to Aspartame, Sucralose/ splenda, gardasil and dangerous 'foods" on FB for information in over 100 discussions and links.

All gum is dangerous- all of it has aspartame.

also see YouTube Glarstout channel for informative videos=created and favored.

12/20/2010 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Cyndi said...

I know this is a very old post but I'm sitting here in excruciating pain and wanted to thank you for identifying the source of my problem! I've tried all the sugar substitutes and know that some of them give me stomach problems but none are as bad as the pain I feel after eating Russell Stovers SF chocolate. Never again! I thought I would be okay with just two small pieces of chocolate - no such luck. I'll be throwing away the rest of the bags and relying on my Zevias for my sweetness kick.

5/29/2012 9:11 PM  

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