Are sugar alcohol sweeteners like erythritol and xylitol good alternatives to sugar?
Erythritol, xylitol, and other sugar alcohols have been used for decades to sweeten chewing gum, candy, fruit spreads, toothpaste, cough syrup, and other products. Newer, cheaper ways to make sugar alcohols from corn, wood, and other plant materials, along with their sugar-like taste, are fueling their use in a growing array of foods. Erythritol has even begun cropping up in beverages, on its own or combined with stevia in the “natural” calorie-free sweeteners Truvia™ and PureVia™. Other sugar alcohols you may see listed on food labels are mannitol, sorbitol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates. Sugar alcohols taste like sugar, with 50 to 70 percent of the sweetness of sucrose (table sugar). The body doesn’t break down or absorb sugar alcohols as easily as sucrose—you get four calories from a teaspoon of table sugar compared with 0.2 calories from erythritol and 2.4 calories from xylitol. There is a price to pay for the poor absorption of sugar alcohols: At high levels of intake, suga