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Polyols: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

Polyols: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

What Are Polyols?

Polyols are also known as sugar alcohols. They partly contain sugar while the other part is made up of alcohol. Polyols are naturally found in fruits and vegetables but can also be manufactured and added to the end product as a sweetener. These sugar alcohols are low in calorie, get digested slowly and are low glycemic carbohydrates. 

This means that consuming them will not necessarily lead to the effects caused by other carbohydrates or consumption of high sugar products.They provide the sweetness without increasing your calorie intake. 

Polyols contain half the calories in regular sugar, they do not interfere with the sugar levels in the blood or cause sudden changes in the glycemic levels, which can trigger conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart problems. In the USA alone, eight authorized polyols can be used in the manufacturing process as sweeteners. These can be used in candies, cakes and other baked foods, canned fruits, ice cream, frostings, beverages, and fillings. 


This is one of the most common and highly used sugar alcohols. It is found in fruits such as apples, avocado, blackberries, apricots, cherries, nectarines, cherries, prunes, pears, and plums. Avocados are known to have very high concentrations of Sorbitol. In the manufacturing industries, this is one of the most common polyols used because it has an equivalent of at least 60% table sugar sweetness. 



This polyol is found in watermelons, snow peas, celery, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. In the manufacturing processes, mannitol is derived from cornstarch. 



This is another common and popular food additive that is 90% as sweet as ordinary sugar. Industrial maltitol is derived from hydrogenating the two sugars, a glucose-glucose disaccharide found in cornstarch. These sugars are derived from maltose contained in the cornstarch. Because of its high sweetness levels, it is an ideal additive in the food chemical industry. Naturally, maltitol is found in fruits and vegetables including chicory leaves and roasted malt. Rather than add sweetness, maltitol can also be used in food products to prevent browning and keeps foods moist for longer periods. 


This is commonly found in lactose concentrated whey. When milk is strained after curdling, the result is whey. Whey is normally derived in the manufacturing of casein and cheese. It is used in candies, both hard and soft, chewing gum, and dairy desserts. In most cases, lactitol is not used alone but mixed with other sugar alcohols. 



This polyol contains both sorbitol and mannitol and is derived from sugarcane. In the manufacturing industries, fructose from the cane sugar is separated into disaccharides, glucose mannitol, and glucose sorbitol. This tends to be a stronger sugar alcohol because it has the properties of both the sorbitol and mannitol. As you will realize, Isomalt's name does not end in ‘tol’ like other polyols. The reason may be because it is a derivative of two polyols. 



This sugar alcohol appears in small amounts in fruits and vegetables such as raspberries, endives, and strawberries. For commercial purposes, xylitol is derived from hardwood trees and corncobs. 



This is derived from fermenting sugar found in corn. It has no calories which makes it an ideal sweetener. It can be found in pears, watermelon, grapes, and soy. It can also be found in animals meaning that it is a byproduct of sugar metabolism. It is up to 80% sweet as natural sugar. 

Sugar alcohols are becoming more popular with manufacturers. They add almost the same level of sweetness as sugar products. Polyols are used in the manufacture of dietary supplements and low-calorie products. 

Polyols and Toothpaste 

Polyols immediately break down into acids when in the mouth. This makes them ideal components of mouthwash products, toothpaste, and chewing gum. Another consideration is that they do not contain too much sugar or cause tooth decay and cavities. In fact, sugar alcohols are recommended all over the world for the manufacture of toothpaste and mouthwash. Also, they are common additives to children medication such as throat lozenges and cough syrups. Children’s teeth can easily be damaged by sugars which makes polyols a suitable alternative because the sweetness is an important factor in children’s medication. 

Polyols do contain carbohydrates but without the high-calorie levels. This is especially important when looking for supplements or diets to help with weight loss. You get to consume the required amounts of carbohydrates without adding the calorie levels. Polyols contain beneficial nutrients and minerals. As indicated, most are extracted from fruits and vegetables, which contain essential minerals and vitamins required for healthy growth.