March 11, 2011 10:37 AM   Subscribe

How exactly do sugar alcohols work? Can I eat sugar free candy on a low carb diet?

How exactly do sugar alcohols work? I'm trying to lose weight on a low-carb diet. Tell me how sugar free chocolate works exactly and if I can eat (reasonable amounts of course - like 300 calories max) sugar free chocolate and still lose weight?
posted by floweredfish to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'll leave the "how do they work" bit to someone else. Though I'm guessing they just don't absorb well in the intestines, as they are known to cause gassiness and other GI discomfort. For that reason, I would warn you to start with small quantities to see how they sit with your system.
posted by ldthomps at 11:02 AM on March 11, 2011

In my experience it makes you really gassy, your experience may vary. Some low or slow carb diets would recommend against it, since it may still effect blood sugar levels, but others will say it's fine. You could measure your weight loss for a week without it, and then eat all you want the next week and compare the two. Your results may vary from others.
posted by jeffkramer at 11:04 AM on March 11, 2011

Sugar alcohols and blood sugar.

Also, watch out for the bloating and diarrhea associated with their overconsumption.
posted by caddis at 11:05 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

^ totally. a coworker had a bad experience with a bag of sugar free Reeses Peanut Butter cups and forever after warned peopel not to eat too many or "the bad thing" might happen.

IMHO sugar free chocolate generally tastes bad. Vosges has some that don't taste bad. A lot of dark chocolate isn't too high in carbs as long as you don't eat the whole bar.
posted by oneear at 11:22 AM on March 11, 2011

I don't know the science behind it, but sugar alcohols aren't created equally. A lot of the sugar free stuff marketed to diabetes still have a big impact on blood sugars and insulin levels, which low carb dieters also need to keep low. Some of the worst offenders are sorbitol and maltitol, which have about 75% of the impact of regular sugar, so they're not really much better in the long run especially after you factor in the awful gassy side effects.

However, there are better alternatives: erythritol and inulin seem to be a lot safer. Products like Chocoperfection are amazing, taste very authentic, and are made with erythritol and oligofructose.
posted by Viola at 11:32 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I personally don't mind the laxative effect, as I generally take stool softeners to begin with. Eating too much to begin with though will cause a drastic change in the quality of your bowel movements, like everyone has said.

I would treat them the same as regular sugar as far as calorie count goes. If you are early on in your low-carb diet I would wait a while to start introducing that stuff. Some chocolate almond milk(unsweetened, I like Almond Breeze) with a packet of Stevia is my go-to I NEED CHOCOLATE fix. 45 calories for a whole big mug, only 3 grams of which are carbs, and one is fiber.
posted by lettuchi at 11:35 AM on March 11, 2011

Also, watch out for the bloating and diarrhea associated with their overconsumption.

Also note that "overconsumption" can be as little as three or four small pieces over a twenty-four hour period, depending on the person. You might want to try just one piece the first day.
posted by Ery at 11:36 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, and I know you didn't ask this, but when I first started my low carb diet (where I lost 25 pounds and counting) I felt compelled to divorce sugar and sugar-imitation foods from my diet, at least temporarily. I felt that I needed to change the fundamentals of my eating habits, which meant eating more protein and vegetables and less sweets and starches, even if the sweets and starches were faked by stuff like erythritol and CarbQuik. I think I've stayed on the wagon for so long partly because I learned to do completely without reminders of my old eating habits for the first few months of eating low carb.

Either way, stay far far away from most of the sugar-free candies you can get at grocery stores: it's full of Maltitol crap. Splenda is fine as long as there's no dextrose, so stick to liquid splendas as opposed to granular packets. I use Netrition to order special low carb products, and I make sure to read both the ingredients and the reviews of other anal low carb dieters.
posted by Viola at 11:37 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Ery's recommendation to take it very slow. I've found that for me, even one serving is "overconsumption." If I absolutely must have sugar alcohols, I have to keep it to less than half a serving if I don't want to be writhing in pain and stuck in the bathroom for the next six hours.
posted by platinum at 11:45 AM on March 11, 2011

I seem to remember at least one of the sugar alcohols are similar to activated charcoal, chemically speaking. At least when I ate too much of it and had cramping and diarrhea that's what I was told by a physician.
posted by 6:1 at 11:48 AM on March 11, 2011

My husband is diabetic, he watches sugar alcohols, since he says they raise blood sugar. So if blood-sugar levels are a concern, then don't eat it.

"Sugar free" anything can give you MAJOR intestinal distress! I know. I have found that too much sucralose (sweetener in Splenda) gives me really awful gas. I drank a naturally sweetened no calorie drink and I was literally sick with gas. Wondering what on earth I could have done to have become the Hindenburg, I checked all the ingredients in the soda. It was the "natural sweetener" sucralose. I was surprised, since this is rarely mentioned as a side effect. I must be susceptible. Maltitol gives me worse gas. And by too much i mean ONE serving. Ugh.
posted by fifilaru at 3:40 PM on March 11, 2011

Type 1 diabetic here. I don't eat low carb, but I have to COUNT carbs, to dose myself properly with insulin. I recently met with a dietician who said that while you should subtract fiber from the total carb count if it's >5g, you should not subtract sugar alcohols. For diabetic purposes, anyway, they count as carbs.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:27 AM on March 12, 2011

Huh. Anecdotal evidence only, of course. I've never eaten a whole bag of the suckers, but I have eaten ten of the little sugar-alcohol sweetened candies in a day with zero ill result. I did that a couple of times when I was dieting. They had 15 calories each and they were weird, but deeeeelicious. Not even a hint of gas and certainly no diarrhea! Apparently I am not sensitive.

I'd also be curious to know how they digest, exactly.
posted by thelastcamel at 10:27 AM on March 12, 2011

The anecdote I remember from the low carb craze days is that either it impacts your blood sugar, or you get the laxative effect. So you're (usually) either the first group or the second.
posted by getawaysticks at 2:32 PM on March 14, 2011

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