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Sugar Alcohol

Carbohydrates forms as products of photosynthesis which is an endothermic reductive condensation of carbon dioxide requiring light energy and the pigment chlorophyll.

nCO2 + nH2O + energy $\rightarrow$ CnH2nOn + nO2

The general formula for carbohydrates is Cn(H2O)n, hence considered as hydrates of carbon. They are a major source of metabolic energy in the form of ATP for all living systems and act as reserve food in living bodies.
Carbohydrates also play a vital role in nutritional and also serve as a structural material like cellulose. They are main component of nucleic acids. Carbohydrates can be classified on the basis of mono saccharide units, type of functional group or number of carbon atom in molecule and on the basis of their reactivity.

Sugar Alcohols

Carbohydrates also known as sugar and can be simple type like glucose C6H12O6 and sucrose C6H11O22 and complex like starch and cellulose.

 

What are Sugar Alcohols?

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"A type of carbohydrates which generally used in sweetens food but with half the calories of sugar is called as sugar alcohols". Chemically they are polyols in which the aldose or ketose form get hydrogenated and have a same linear structure as in monosaccharides only the aldehyde (-CHO) group is replaced with a -CH2OH group in each unit. Some common examples of sugar alcohols are Isomalt, Lactitol, Sorbitol, Maltitol, Xylitol, erythritol, Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates and Mannitol. They are mainly used as a replacement for sugar in diet, health-oriented foods and in foods intended for individuals with diabetes.

Sugar alcohols are most recently found useful for the development in new products for carbohydrate controlled eating plans. Hence sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols but a carbohydrate with a chemical structure which partially resembles sugar and partially resembles alcohol. Sugar alcohols don’t contain ethanol as alcoholic beverages do.

Sugar alcohols can be classified on the basis of number of carbon atoms in molecule. Some of the sugar alcohols are as follows.

Number of carbon atoms in
sugar alcohol molecule

Name
1 Methanol
2 Glycol
3 Glycerol
4 Erythritol
4 Threitol
5 Arabitol
5 Xylitol
5 Ribitol
6 Mannitol
6 Sorbitol
6 Galactitol
6 Fucitol
6 Iditol
6 Inositol
7 Volemitol
12 Isomalt
12 Maltitol
12 Lactitol

Sugar alcohols can be incompletely absorbed and metabolized by the body and contribute fewer calories as their calorie content ranges from 1.5 to 3 calories per gram which is very close to sucrose or other sugar(4 calories per gram). Apart from that they are less sweetener compare to sucrose. They occur naturally as well as commercially prepared from other carbohydrates like starch, sucrose and glucose.

Sugar alcohols can involved in a verity of functions like providing a cooling effect or taste, retaining moisture in foods, adding bulk and texture and inhibiting the browning that occurs during heating. Some examples of sugar alcohols are follows.
  1. Mannitol: This sugar alcohol is found naturally in fruits like pineapples, olives and some of the vegetables like asparagus, sweet potatoes and carrots. It is generally extracted from seaweed and used in food manufacturing. It has 50-70 percent of the relative sweetness of sugar and lingers in the intestines for a long time therefore often causes diarrhea and bloating.
  2. Sorbitol: Sorbitol occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables and mainly manufactured from corn syrup. The relative sweetness of sorbitol is 50%, therefore twice as much must be used to deliver a similar amount of sweetness to a product. It has less of a harmful compared to mannitol and often an ingredient in sugar-free gums and candies.
  3. Xylitol: Another name of xylitol is "wood sugar". It is naturally found in straw, cereals, fruit, corncobs, vegetables and mushrooms. It is almost as sweet as sugar and found in chewing gums.
  4. Lactitol: The relative sweetness of lactitol is 30-40% but it’s quite resembles to sugar in taste and solubility profile. It is often found in hard and soft candies, chewing gums, baked goods, chocolate, sugar-free ice cream and sugar-reduced preserves.
  5. Isomalt: This sugar alcohol does not tend to lose its sweetness or break down during the heating process. The relative sweetness of isomalt is 45 - 65 % compare to sugar. It can absorb little water, so it is often used in toffee, hard candies, lollipops and cough drops.
  6. Maltitol: It is mainly used manufacturing of chocolate-flavored desserts, chewing gum, baked goods, ice cream and sugar-free hard candies as it gives a creamy texture to foods. The relative sweetness of maltitol is 75 %.
  7. Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH): These sugar alcohols are produced by the partial hydrolysis of corn and provide 40 - 90 percent of the sweetness of sugar. They do not crystallize and are used in baked goods, mouthwashes and confections.

Some of the sugar alcohol with their energy content and applications are as follows.


Sugar Alcohols with Applications
Sugar Alcohols with Applications

Overall sugar alcohols used as a batter option of sugar to make sugar free food stuff. Some advantage of sugar alcohols over sugar consumption is as follow.
  • Fewer calories: Sugar alcohols contain lesser calories (0.2 to 3 calories per gram) compare to sugar (4 calories per gram) which make them a diet-friendly choice for people to limit their caloric intake.
  • Safe for diabetics: Sugar alcohols are slowly absorbed as compared to sugar and therefore they require little or very less insulin for metabolism and good for diabetes patients.
  • Better dental health: They do not promote tooth decay as they cannot be metabolized by the bacteria to produce dental cavities.
  • Lesser interactions with drug: Sugar alcohols are found to be inactive with the pharmacologic ingredients in medicines compared to sugars.
  • Individual tastes: There are many sugar alcohols with different sweetness levels with some about half as sweet to almost equal in sweetness level as sugar.

Sugar Alcohols Side Effects

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The positive side of sugar alcohols is their less calorific content and less sweetness compare to sugar and not involve in metabolism of bacteria responsible for tooth decay. Overall sugar alcohols are safe for human consumption. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in US classifies some sugar alcohols as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) and others are approved as food additives.

Unfortunately, there are some negative sides also associated with sugar alcohols. Some of the side effects of sugar alcohol consumption are as follow.
  1. The excessive amount of sugar alcohol causes gastrointestinal upsets like bloating and diarrhoea.
  2. Sugar alcohols can cause a "laxative effect" like fructose (natural fruit sugar) in fruit and fruit juice and weight gain.
  3. The consumption of uncontrolled amount of sugar alcohol increases the blood sugar level for Type I diabetics patients.
  4. Since sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed, therefore they can ferment in the intestines and cause diarrhoea and bloating.
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