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June 8, 2002

Meal Planning, Food and Diet

Question from Chubbuck, Idaho, USA:

I have been instructed by my doctor not to eat sugars. I have found products labeled no sugar or sugar free, but the nutrition facts show something called "sugar alcohol." What is sugar alcohol? How will it affect my glucose levels?


Sugar alcohols are a form of sugar that does not metabolize as easily as table sugars, but they still contribute to carbohydrate content, and they also can cause a laxative effect if overconsumed. In the grand scheme of things, they are still better than a higher carbohydrate alternative, if consumed in moderation.

Additional comments from Lois Schmidt Finney, diabetes dietitian:

I do not know that they are better than regular sugar, especially since they tend to leave a peculiar aftertaste. I also am very concerned that people may think that these are good to use and it is easy to overdo it (we hear of that so often, that people eat too much sugar-alcohol-sweetened stuff). Having a plain sugar cookie is often more satisfying than the dietetic cookies. And of course fruit would be even better than desserts with either sugar or sugar alcohols.