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What is Maltitol?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Sometimes used as a sugar substitute, maltitol is a polyol or sugar substitute that is understood to be almost as sweet as conventional granulated sugar. Measured in a manner that is similar to sugar, it can be used in a number of recipes. The taste is almost identical to sugar, but has the advantage of supplying fewer calories.

There are several advantages that make maltitol worth consideration as a substitute for sugar. When used as an ingredient in baked goods, the sweetener helps to provide a pleasant taste. Its thickening qualities are similar to those of table sugar, making it ideal for the creation of a number of hard candies and chocolates. Because maltitol can aid in achieving a creamy texture, this sugar substitute is often used in creating ice cream that is lower in calories and less likely to trigger a spike in glucose levels.

In the way of health benefits, the lower caloric content can be helpful for persons who are trying to lose a few extra pounds. There is some evidence that the use of maltitol rather than sugar can help minimize the chances for the development of tooth decay. For people who control diabetes with the use of diet, sweets that are made with this sugar substitute make it possible to enjoy a small treat from time to time.

In spite of the benefits, there are several drawbacks to the use of maltitol. First, this sugar alcohol will not brown during cooking, which means that the sweetener does not work well in the creation of glazes for desserts that call for a browned crust of sugar. Second, there is some evidence that it causes gastric upset in a number of people. While the level of sweetness is roughly 90% that of table sugar, some consumers may tend to use excessive amounts, which will only exacerbate the opportunity for stomach problems.

There are a few commercial brands of maltitol available for home use. While not widely carried in supermarkets, these sweeteners are becoming more popular items. Specialty food shops are an excellent source, as are many high-end supermarket chains.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including SmartCapitalMind, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon974578 — On Oct 19, 2014

On two separate occasions I purchased some "sugar-free" brownies from the ever popular and super-expensive supermarket chain known as Whole Foods here in the U.S. I didn't pay much attention to the ingredients.

The first time, I ate four small brownie 'bites' and became ill after a few hours. I spent the entire night suffering from diarrhea, extreme bloating, and gas. Because I wasn't able to say with certainty that the problem was the brownies (I only suspected), I decided to get a few more the following week (a fresh batch of brownies) and see if the problem reoccurred. This time, I only had two brownie bites, but the results were pretty much the same: horrible stomach pains that lasted three days and made me afraid to eat anything for fear of further upsetting my stomach.

Today I went in to the bakery department and asked one of the employees working there for a list of the ingredients. I was familiar with all the ingredients (eggs, butter, milk, cocoa powder, etc.) except the first one: maltitol. The employee mentioned to me that she has heard of several customers having issues with this ingredient. Never again. It was such a horrible experience. I'm sticking to sweeteners that my body will digest more easily such as honey, dates and coconut.

By anon947816 — On Apr 27, 2014

I only had half of a tiny Russell Stover's coconut candy and all day I've had horrible cramps and diarrhea. My boyfriend had the other half and a whole RS peanut butter cup and he's been relatively fine, if windy.

By anon318209 — On Feb 06, 2013

I ate 20 gummy bears made with maltitol yesterday. It was my first time ever eating it. I was ill within an hour and a half. I had diarrhea ten times over 11 hours, but besides that, I felt fine. At about hour five, I started having gas, bloating, and abdominal pain which lasted until 3 a.m., 17 hours after I ate it. My stomach ached until 8 a.m. Did I mention I wasn't able to sleep all night? Never again.

By anon294550 — On Oct 02, 2012

Everybody is different. Some people do not have reactions to Maltitol. I would rather have something with Maltitol in it than sugar any day. The amount of sugar the US consumer eats is something they should look at. Sugar and white flour is not helping our health at all.

By anon254915 — On Mar 15, 2012

For the folks that think maltitol is made from sugar cane, you are wrong. A simple online search will tell you what it is made from.

By anon172369 — On May 03, 2011

From what this says, do I presume it is made with the alcohol of cane sugar? If that is the case then it is not "sugar-free". I have sugar allergies and all of the labeling is very misleading. It cannot be sugar-free if it is made with sugar.

By anon155481 — On Feb 23, 2011

I purchased a well known supermarket's bakery item that clearly stated it was sweetened with Splenda (an ingredient that I can well tolerate). But when I got home I read the vast ingredient label closely and found that maltitol was the second on the list and Splenda was second to the last. The market is only the distributor for this product, so I called the identified baker. Evidently their claim that they do use Splenda is not considered misleading. There seems to be no clear-cut guidelines to advertising the ingredient.

I do like the packaging with the maltitol warning, but this label did not reveal anything. I appreciate companies that make an effort to allow their customers to make informed purchases. I let my guard down on that one. Buyer beware.

By anon152677 — On Feb 14, 2011

I don't think Splenda (sucralose) is any better than the maltitol. I had a drink with it in it, and was writhing with intestinal pains for hours, and diarrhea too.

By anon133633 — On Dec 11, 2010

i ate a sugar free cookie with this ingredient (xylitol) in it. i had diarrhea for 12 hours and bad gas pains. i can't eat anything with sorbitol in it either. so i will have to read labels better also.

there should be a warning on the packages of anything that has both of these ingredients. now i know better. ccpe

By anon117171 — On Oct 09, 2010

I agree with sharyn. what is it made from? is it an alcohol sugar?

By anon107885 — On Sep 01, 2010

Does maltitol contain fructose?

By anon72554 — On Mar 23, 2010

Try Stevia. It's derived from a plant that grows in the Amazon and the Japanese have been using it since the 50's. I have been using it for years with no side effects.

By anon72419 — On Mar 23, 2010

I have recently had a permanent colostomy and was getting on well, getting used to a "poo bag" when I took some Calpol 6+ liquid for a cold and a very sore throat hence not using conventional paracetamol as I could not swallow easily.

Within a short while I had the most smelly wind ( the "poo bags" which I suppose I should call pouches) have a filter which usually gets rid of any smells). Luckily I was at home, but I had to open all the windows on a freezing day! I would have lost my confidence in going out as it takes a bit of a knock after this operation, if I had not later read the ingredients on the bottle of Calpol and there it was malitol!

By anon66749 — On Feb 21, 2010

I live in italy and discovered a delicious digestive cookie that said "no sugar"!! The ingredients were printed so tiny I had to get a magnifying lens... and sure enough small print said Maltitol!?? So I googled it and to my surprise found out why I had stinky gas and was in the bathroom frequently...

Better regular sugar then any sweetener *at all*!!

By anon63931 — On Feb 04, 2010

For me, the Maltitol creates a little gas, but I knew this would happen. Everything in moderation. For me Maltitol is not the evil thing that others claim it to be.

By anon58149 — On Dec 30, 2009

After purchasing some sugar free chocolate almond clusters which my 82 year old mother, my husband and myself consumed, all with the same devastating effect, mainly horrible gas and gas pains with an actively gurgling stomach and light diarrhea.

I researched sugar free chocolate and gas and found this article which I must say, I can wholeheartedly agree with 100 percent, having field-tested it. I'm taking what is left back to the store to tell them they need to put a warning label on anything made with maltitol!

It annoys me to no end for a sugar-free candy company to proudly display the Splenda symbol on the front of their packaging and then use a sugar alcohol such as maltitol as the primary sweetener. That's false advertising if you ask me!

For those of you who have never consumed anything made with maltitol (believe me, you would know if you did!), this sugar alcohol is one of the worst sugar alternatives known to man. If you don't mind (excuse the graphic but accurate description) pooping and flatulating your brains out for hours after eating something with maltitol in it, then east up!

But most people find this nasty side effect just a wee bit too uncomfortable to indulge too often in products containing maltitol. I know I try to avoid them as much as possible myself because the gas they cause is very painful and disgusting.

One of my faithful readers shared with me her recent experience after accidentally consuming maltitol:

The other day while on the road, I stopped at a truck stop, and they had fudge and sugar-free fudge for sale. My dormant sweet tooth kicked in, and I got a pound of the sugar-free kind. I consumed a two-inch square of this fudge and it was yummy!

Unfortunately, I neglected to ask what was in the sugar-free fudge, and boy did I pay for it later! I was up all night with incredible intestinal problems that were only relieved when I got very sick. I'm sure, like most sugar-free chocolate candy, it was loaded with maltitol. I'd eaten a small bit of candy with maltitol several months ago and knew how bad it would affect me.

I guess this is just a good reminder to always check what sweetener is used in anything labeled sugar-free. Splenda is best, erythritol is okay, and aspartame and maltitol are no-nos! Now if we can only get the candy and soft drink manufacturers to follow along!

Amen! I've long held the belief that Russell Stover could replace the maltitol syrup that they use in their excellent line of sugar-free/low-carb chocolates with erythritol, Splenda and/or ACE-K. But will they listen to me? No! The only way to make them change is for enough people to write them a letter sharing their concerns about maltitol and simultaneously boycotting the purchase of their products until they change.

If they feel it in their pocketbook, then they will heed your opinions.

The lesson here is to always be cognizant of what is in the foods you are eating. Although you don't have to count the carbs in the sugar alcohols you consume while livin' la vida low-carb, there are better ones out there to enjoy without the unpleasant side effects that come from maltitol. Try erythritol or oligofructose instead.

I went out to a popular ice cream place in Spartanburg, South Carolina with my wife the other day called Bruster's. They had a sugar-free raspberry chocolate ice cream that looked delicious and it was. When I inquired what the sugar substitute was they told me it was sweetened with Splenda, but I knew it had maltitol in it as well a little later on when my stomach started break-dancing an hour after I ate it.

It just goes to show you how important reading those labels can be so you can beware of sneaky sugar alcohols!

There were lots of others that wrote in response to this note that had the same effects from eating maltitol or some kind of sugar-free candy or chocolate without knowing what was in it.

You should warn your readers about the horrible side effects of this ingredient. Two pieces of chocolate are enough to bring on a lot of gas but if you eat a half a cup or so, plan on spending the next six hours in the bathroom. N. Kramer

By anon54928 — On Dec 03, 2009

What is it made from?

By anon52684 — On Nov 16, 2009

I read it is an ingredient in cigarettes and is not allowed to be on the market in the US because it is a known cancer causing agent.

By anon49134 — On Oct 17, 2009

is it gluten free?

By anon38741 — On Jul 28, 2009

Please: What is malitol? I do not see a description of what it is made from. Thanks,

Sharyn

By anon17886 — On Sep 09, 2008

would you say it is an equal to isomalt in gastric issues???

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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