Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar Alcohols

In order to cater for people who want to be watchful about their sugar intake, the food industry has produced a variety of sugar substitutes. These sugar substitutes have no doubt helped countless people, including diabetics, to be more watchful about their sugar intake in their daily lives. But what are all these sugar substitutes? Do they have any pros and cons? This article expounds on the most notable sugar substitutes that are used in the market today, focusing on their role in a person’s diet.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are one category of sugar substitutes. These are synthetic compounds that provide a sweet taste without the added calories of sugar. They are commonly used in diet sodas, sugar-free desserts, and other low-calorie products. Some of the most popular artificial sweeteners include:

  • Aspartame: Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is commonly used in diet sodas and sugar-free chewing gums.
  • Sucralose: Sucralose is another popular artificial sweetener that is 600 times sweeter than sugar. It is often used in baked goods, dairy products, and beverages.
  • Saccharin: Saccharin is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners and is 300-500 times sweeter than sugar. It is commonly found in tabletop sweeteners and diet foods.

While artificial sweeteners provide a sweet taste without the added calories, they do have some potential drawbacks. Some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body's natural ability to regulate calorie intake, leading to increased cravings for sweet foods. Additionally, some people may experience digestive issues or headaches when consuming artificial sweeteners.

Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols are another category of sugar substitutes. These are carbohydrates that occur naturally in certain fruits and vegetables, but can also be produced commercially. Sugar alcohols are often used in sugar-free candies, chewing gums, and diabetic-friendly products. Some common sugar alcohols include:

  • Xylitol: Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a sweetener in sugar-free gums and mints. It has about 40% fewer calories than sugar and has a similar sweetness.
  • Erythritol: Erythritol is another sugar alcohol that is found naturally in some fruits. It has a very low calorie content and is well-tolerated by most people, even in large amounts.
  • Maltitol: Maltitol is a sugar alcohol that is often used as a sugar substitute in baked goods. It has a similar taste and texture to sugar, but with fewer calories.

Sugar alcohols provide a sweet taste and can be a good option for those looking to reduce their sugar intake. However, they can have a laxative effect when consumed in large amounts, leading to digestive discomfort.

Sugar substitutes offer a variety of options for individuals who want to be mindful of their sugar intake. Artificial sweeteners provide sweetness without the added calories, but may have potential drawbacks such as increased cravings. Sugar alcohols, on the other hand, can be a good alternative, but may cause digestive issues in large amounts. It's important to consider individual preferences and consult with a healthcare professional when incorporating sugar substitutes into a diet.


  1. Artificial sweeteners


Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes made synthetically. They are characteristic of being many times sweeter than sugar (sucrose), but without the calories. As such, they are attractive alternatives to sugar for diabetics as they do not affect blood sugar levels.

Examples include

  1. Sucralose
  2. Aspartame
  • Saccharin
  1. Stevia


Possible Cons to Artificial Sweeteners

Research conducted on artificial sweeteners however shows that the body responds differently than it does regular sugar.

  1. Overindulging in sweeteners may lead to cravings, as the artificial sugars can alter one’s brain’s response to sweetness, affecting the ability to feel satisfied. This may lead to overeating and therefore weight gain through other calories found in food.
  2. Artificial sweeteners can also change one’s gut bacteria composition. This change can cause glucose intolerance, which is the first step towards metabolic syndrome and diabetes in adults.

    2. Sugar alcohols/Polyols

Sugar alcohols are sugar substitutes that have a similar molecular structure to sugar, but also contain an alcohol molecule. This attribute gives them a sweet taste, at about 25-100% sweet as sugar, but the body does not absorb and metabolize them in the same way as sugar.

Sugar alcohols, although containing calories which can increase blood sugar, have much lower Glycemic Indices (GI – a numeric score that measures how fast food in question converts to glucose in the body) than sugar. As such, they are considered low-digestible carbs.

Examples of sugar alcohols, along with their relative sweetness to sugar and GIs.


Relative sweetness

Glycemic index (GI)






















Even though some sugar alcohols have a higher GI than others, all have significantly lower effects on blood sugar than regular sugar, whose GI is 65. As such, sugar alcohols may have a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels and help people with conditions like diabetes better manage their blood sugar levels.


Sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol can have beneficial effects on dental health. Xylitol especially is used in chewing gum and toothpastes as it promotes dental health by reducing plaque formation, inhibiting tooth demineralization, and preventing the growth of harmful bacteria


Possible Cons to Sugar Alcohols

According to research, sugar alcohols do not get digested by the body, so they travel to the large intestine where a person’s gut bacteria break them down.

Overconsumption of sugar alcohols may then lead to gas, bloating and diarrhea.


Erythritol however is known to be the best of sugar alcohols as it causes significantly less digestive problems than other sugar alcohols. Erythritol, unlike the other sugar alcohols is absorbed but not metabolised, and finally excreted through your urine mostly intact. It also closely mimics the taste of sugar without a drastic aftertaste, and contains almost no calories.

OFELOS: Diabetic- and Keto-Friendly Products

At Ofelos, we believe that the education of our customers – diabetics and non-diabetics alike – on the various sugar substitutes used in various products is important. The more commonplace such awareness becomes, the better decisions we can all make towards maintaining healthy lifestyles.


Ofelos products uses only pure erythritol to give them their delightful taste, ensuring that even diabetics can indulge in the occasional treat without much worry.




Reference: Xylitol: a review on bioproduction, application, health benefits, and related safety issues Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials the gut microbiota: Impact of low calorie sweeteners and the link to insulin resistance? sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota Sweetened Beverage Consumption Is Positively Associated with Newly Diagnosed Diabetes in Normal-Weight but Not in Overweight or Obese Brazilian Adults

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