While I have briefly written about sugar alchohols, yesterday, the Wall Street Journal had a big article on sugar alcohol. (Of course, I can't link to it because you need to be both a print and online subscriber.) Dana Carpender also did a column on sugar alcohols. However, the best information that I have found on sugar alcohols is from a diabetic author named Jenny. (Jenny also isn't constrained by print space.)
Highlights of her article include:
Most of these "low carb" products are sweetened with substances called "sugar alcohols." Maltitol, lacitol, and sorbitol are some of names of these sweeteners. Despite the name, these aren't sugars or alcohols. They are hydrogenated starch molecules which are a byproduct of grain processing.
Despite wrapper claims, these sugar alcohols are metabolized. Each gram of a sugar alcohol turns into anywhere from less than 1 to as much as 3 calories. Erythritol comes in lowest, delivering less than one calorie per gram. Maltitol--the sugar alcohol found in most "low carb" foods is the highest, delivering 3 calories per gram. That is only a bit less than 4 calories you find in regular sugar and starch.
Small print on back of these label explains that fiber and sugar alcohols have a "negligible effect on blood sugar". This, they suggest means that you can ignore them, and magically converts foods that have 24 grams of carbs--and the associated calories--into foods with a diet-friendly 3 grams.
If it were true that these foods did not raise blood sugar, it would make them ideal for the low carb diet. However, it is not always true. Some lucky people can eat these low carb treats and still lose weight on a low carb diet. But hundreds of people who have stopped by the alt.support.diet.low-carb news group to ask why their weight loss has stopped cold, discover that it is these sugar alcohol-laden low carb junk foods that have caused their long-term stalls.
Oh, heck, just go read the whole thing! (And she also tells me something about nut labels that I never knew before! They should fix that damn quick! And you have to read it to find it.)
And while you are at it, read about how to stop a hunger craving and how to get back on the low carb bandwagon once you have fallen off.
Update: Here is more on what you should look for in low carb sweeteners!