Sugar Alcohols (Polyols) And Why I Don’t Use Them

Swerve SweetenerThere are many sugar alcohol products out there and they are not, as many people believe, “free” carbohydrates. When you look at a nutritional label for any given product containing sugar alcohols you can not simply subtract the total gram count from the carb count-it is more complex than it seems. Their common names are: Erythritol, Isomalt, Lactitol, Maltitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol, Xylitol.

The effects sugar alcohols have on your blood glucose can vary so it is difficult to know how they will affect your levels every time.

From the ADA (of which I am NO fan):  Because there is less effect from sugar alcohols than either sugar or starch, you can use the following to estimate how much carbohydrate from a serving to count in your meal plan for foods that contain more than 5 grams sugar alcohols.

  • When a food has more than 5 grams of sugar alcohols:
  • Subtract ½ the grams sugar alcohol from the amount of total carbohydrate.
  • Count the remaining grams of carbohydrate in your meal plan.

Note: This tip is useful for those who are intensively managing their diabetes with insulin or advanced carbohydrate counting.

Example: Portion 1 bar
Total carbohydrate 15 grams, with 6 grams of sugar alcohol
One bar counts as 12 grams carbohydrate (15 – 3 = 12)

Another example from the University of California San Francisco Calculating Sugar Alcohols

I saw a dessert recipe on the internet the other day that has 2½ C of Swerve in it. The recipe serves 12 and each serving is listed as: 12g Carbs, 5g Fiber, 7g Net Carbs.
Swerve is an erythritol-oligosaccharides mixture and while they say they are Non-GMO we only have their word for it. It has NOT been NON-GMO Project VERIFIED and no matter how you cut it, it is lab-made with “natural flavorings”.

Swerve LabelSo let’s analyze this recipe a bit. Swerve’s label says 5g erythritol and 5g carbs per teaspoon. Using the calculations above; multiply the erythritol use by 120 (number of teaspoons in 2½ C) which is 600g per the whole recipe. Now ÷ 600 by 2=300 then ÷ by 12 (number of servings) and you come up with 25g carbohydrates which is a far cry from 7g and this doesn’t count the rest of the ingredients, of which there are many.

While Swerve may list only 5g erythritol in 1 teaspoon it seems disingenuous when the actual sugar alcohol’s grams are not all counted and subtracted properly from the total carb count. I do not consider Swerve or any other polyol to be low carb or diabetic friendly (unless maybe using only 1 t) and if you are an injecting diabetic I would suggest taking this into serious consideration.

LakantoEvery company nowadays wants to tell you they are NON-GMO and they may indeed be but with the little sticker below means it’s true. If you still wish to use erythritol and I know many of you do, then at least consider Lakanto NON-GMO Project Verified if you are interested in a better erythritol with NO “natural flavors”.  Is it expensive?  Whew Doggie yes it is and according to the reviews I have read it tastes pretty good. They have a white & a golden which is suppose to be a little like brown sugar.

LakantoNon Gmo VerifiedLakanto White-Golden




I recently had occasion to talk with my chemist about all this and he explained it so well that I think anyone can understand it. It doesn’t matter if you are eating sugar or an artificial sweetener of any kind as they all raise your insulin response. You body is “tricked” into releasing insulin when your mouth, thus your brain, detects anything sweet coming in and over time your insulin response stops working when no carbohydrate is detected.  (I am thinking this would also include stevia which I cannot abide anyway).  When you do have sugar, starch or any number of carbs your insulin response will not kick in to cover them.  And me?  Though there are lots of dessert recipes on this site, I have pretty much stopped eating them altogether, I will not post anymore of them,  and I do not use polyols.

Ronald Reagan famously said, “Trust but Verify”. At the signing of the INF Treaty, his counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev responded: “you repeat that at every meeting,” to which Reagan answered: “I like it”…I like it too.