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Maltitol

What is maltitol?

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol and is commonly used as a natural sugar substitute. Except for browning it has very identical properties to sucrose and has 75 - 90% sweetens of sucrose. Compared to other carbohydrates which give 4 calories per gram, maltitol gives 2.1 calories per gram thus due to its fewer calories it is often used to replace table sugar (sucrose). Commercially maltitol is known as Maltisorb and Maltisweet (trade names), it is basically a disaccharide and produced from corn and its products.
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Maltose obtained from the starch of corn undergoes hydrogenation to give maltitol. Compared to other sugar alcohols, maltitol is very subtle and has similar effects to sucrose; its high sweetness also allows it to combine with other high intensity sweeteners and use in low calorie food products as a sugar substitute. Maltitol is most commonly used in the production of sweets like chocolates, chewing gums, sugarless hard candies, ice creams and baked goods.

Although maltitol has lesser effect on blood sugar levels (as it somewhat gets slowly absorbed than sucrose thus more suitable for people with diabetes) and also is not associated with tooth decay (as it is not metabolized by oral bacteria), but it is known to cause gastric distress if consumed in large quantities. As it is absorbed slowly in the gut it has a laxative effect and sometimes can cause bloating or flatulence if consumed in high amounts. Thus people with gastric problems like anal leakage should use fibrous foods or other sugar alcohols along with maltitol wisely to avoid any complications. Even after liquifying intense heat application, maltitol does not get brown or caramelize. As maltitol has exceptional sugar like properties it is often used in large quantities by the food manufacturers, thus consumers often end up consuming maltitol far more than any other sugar alcohol or  substitute.

It is true that maltitol is a low calorie sweetener but one should keep in mind that it provides around 2 calories per gram and the products in which it is used are not necessarily calorie free or fat free. Moreover maltitol syrup has a glycemic index of 52 which is close to that of a table sugar which has glycemic index of 60. The powdered form of maltitol has a glycemic index of 36, which is still higher when compared to other artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. Thus people with diabetes should keep this in mind before consuming maltitol as a sweetener or table sugar.
Submitted on January 16, 2014
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