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Did you know what maltitol is used for in food?

Jaroslav Jetelina, 29. 08. 2023
Did you know what maltitol is used for in food?

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol and is widely used as a substitute for conventional sugar in various foods, such as sweets, low-calorie versions of foods, protein bars, and very often also protein spreads and protein "nut" butters. Maltitol may seem like a great ingredient to reduce the energy value of foods and reduce excess sugar intake. However, higher levels of maltitol consumption can be rather detrimental to our health. Below, we will introduce you to the possible side effects of maltitol that can occur if you consume it frequently and in large quantities, as well as other reasons why it is added to foods in the first place.

the chemical formula of maltitol

What is maltitol and how is it used?

Maltitol is a chemical compound produced by the hydrogenation of maltose, the so-called malt sugar found in starch. Because of its versatility and availability, maltitol is often used in the food industry. It has a similar taste to conventional sugar but has fewer calories and does not affect blood glucose levels to the same extent as conventional sugar. However, it still has some effect on blood glucose levels. Maltitol is also a relatively inexpensive raw material and is therefore used by manufacturers as a substitute for more expensive raw materials such as nuts in nut butters. However, this reduces the quality of the final product, where pure ingredients such as nuts, high-quality protein, or other natural ingredients are much less represented in the final product. The nut content of nut butters can then be as low as 10–20%. Legally, such foods can be labeled nutty, despite the fact that the total nut content is in many cases less than 50%. Occasional consumption of small amounts of maltitol does not harm the body. However, as part of a daily diet, the body benefits more from real nutrients than from substitutes.

Maltitol in powder form

Source: fjingredients.eu

Side effects of maltitol

Maltitol is often presented as a low-calorie form of sweetening. Although it is not harmful to our health in reasonable amounts, it can have negative effects on our bodies. Our bodies are not able to process maltitol in the same way as conventional nutrients (carbohydrates including sugars, fats, and proteins), and in the small intestine, this sugar alcohol can then cause bloating and have laxative effects if consumed in high doses. If you suffer from diabetes or any disease that causes problems with maintaining proper blood sugar levels, you should also avoid maltitol completely.

Proteinové tyčinky s obsahem maltitolu.

Source: canva.com

Maltitol and weight gain

Although we may think that maltitol is "dietary" and does not cause weight gain, the opposite is true. Maltitol is still a calorie-containing substance, so excessive amounts in the diet can cause weight gain like any food. Therefore, itcannot be assumed that foods containing maltitol will not affect our weight when consumed in higher quantities, even though they may make 'low kcal' claims on the product packaging and the food may appear to be a 'diet' one. It is always the case that body weight is only affected by the so-called long-term energy balance, i.e., the difference between total energy intake and energy expenditure.

Conclusion

Maltitol ispopularized as a lower-calorie sugar substitute; however, excessive consumption can have many unpleasant side effects. It is important to understand both the advantages and disadvantages of this substance. With sweeteners and fillers like maltitol, try to at least watch the amount you take in. For some, maltitol in reasonable amounts may not be a problem; for others, even a small portion may cause digestive problems. In general, we recommend that you look at the ingredients of any product before buying it and prefer foods with as little industrial processing as possible.


References:

  1. The low glycemic index and health benefits of polyols as sugar substitutes Livesey, G. PMID: 19087449 Nutr Res Rev. 2003 Dec;16(2):163–91. doi: 10.1079/NRR200371.
  2. A. Black, M. Spence, R. O. McMahon, G. J. Cuskelly, C. N. Ennis, D. R. McCance, I. S. Young, P. M. Bell, and S. J. Hunter et al. The impact of eucalyptus gum on glucose and insulin metabolism Published online September 1, 2002, at: Diabetes Metab Res Rev. PMID: 12469372.
  3. GR Gibson; HM Probert; JV Loo; RA Rastall; MB Roberfroid Modulation of human colonic microbiota through diet: a revised prebiotic paradigm Doi: 10.1079/NRR200479; PMID: 19087444 Nutr Res Rev. 2004 Jun;17(2):259–75.
Jaroslav Jetelina
E-mail: hellofithyve.com