Maltitol is a sugar alcohol (also called a polyol) with very similar properties to sugar but less calories. Like other sugar alcohols (xylitol, mannitol etc) it has a slightly laxative effect and it is not recommended to consume more than 50 gm per day. It occurs in nature, chicory leaves contain a small amount, and as such it is sometime described as a natural sweetener. Nevertheless, everything commercially available, is artificially produced from cereal crops.

It has a higher glycemic index than most other sugar alcohols and so is not as useful for diabetics though still safe if consumed in moderation.

It is very often uses in processed foods as a sugar substitute. For example 'sugar free' chocolate is often sweetened with Maltitol. This can be somewhat misleading as it is still a fairly high glycemic and high calorie sweetener. It is used in medicine, as an ingredient in moisturizers, and it helps keep processed foods moist. It is less hygroscopic than sugar, meaning it absorbs less moisture from the atmosphere. This makes it useful as a coating in hard candies and chewing gums with hard coatings.

Not many for the consumer, more for food producers. It has fewer calories than sugar. (68% for the same sweetness) It has a good taste, and lower glycemic index than sugar. This makes it somewhat suitable as part of a diabetic diet. Like all sugar alcohols it is not metabolized by bacteria in the mouth and so it does not contribute to tooth decay. 

In fact it has been shown, like xylitol, to have a beneficial effect on dental hygiene, reducing plaque and caries.

As with most sugar alcohols it has a slightly laxative effect but only if consumed in relatively large quantities. (100 gm or more per day) Consumption of less than 10 gm appears to have no laxative effect at all, and it is generally considered safe.

Safety Guidelines:
No official guideline is issued. Good advice would seem to be 50g or less.

CSPI (US) Recommendation

The recommendation issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (US) for this substance is - CUT BACK

This is mainly due to the laxative effect, that maltitol, like all sugar alcohols, produces.

It is made from Maltose that is derived from wheat and corn. The Maltose is produced by using enzymatic hydrolysis of the starch. This is then subjected to catalytic hydrogenation, and finally filtration. So it can hardy qualify as a natural product!

Sold As:
SweetPearl., Maltisweet.

How Expensive?
It is not generally sold to the consumer. On the commodity market it is an average priced sweetener, costing about 72% as much as sugar for the same unit of sweetness.

Maltitol Market Share:
In 2012 it  sold approx 0.16 million tonnes equivalent out of a total world market of approx 188 million tonnes. (Sugar was about 155 million tonnes) This would give it about 0.09% of the total market by unit of sweetness. By value it would be slightly less. So it represents a tiny part of the total market.

Interesting facts:
It is used in the production of candies, chewing gum, chocolate and ice cream. Most sugar alcohols produce a cooling effect in the mouth. This is desirable in the case of chewing gum and produces a refreshing effect. In other foods this is undesirable.

It does not have a significant cooling effect (about the same as sugar) and so is very suitable for use in chocolate and other similar products. It seems to produce a very good flavor and may even enhance the subtle flavors in milk chocolate. However it is worth noting that chocolate labeled as 'sugar free' is often sweetened with this sugar alcohol. Diabetics should be aware that it has a GI of 35, much lower than sugar, but not zero. So it should be taken into account when counting carbs.

Like all sugar alcohols, it does not actually contain any alcohol, co no nead to worry in this regard!

It is approved for use in most countries, in some cases a warning is applied regarding excessive consumption having a laxative effect. Approved as E965 in the EU.


Conclusions for Maltitol

It is a useful sugar substitute, but it does not contain zero carbs. One spoon of sugar contains 16 calories. To achieve the same sweetness it would be necessary to consume 11 calories of Maltitol. This is a saving, but not very much. In fact Erythritol (also a sugar alcohol) at only 1 calorie for the same sweetness is a much better substitute in this regard.

Name Calories / Gram Sweetness Index Glycemic Index Calories / Spoon-Equiv
Maltitol 2.4 0.9 35 11

Taste: -------- Good
Aftertaste: ---- No
Concerns: ----- Some

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