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What is Maltitol? A Comprehensive Guide to the Sugar Substitute

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a sugar substitute due to its lower caloric content and reduced glycemic index. Found naturally in some fruits and vegetables, maltitol is also manufactured from starches and sugars through a process called dehydrogenation. As a member of the polyol family, maltitol possesses a sweet taste that is remarkably similar to sucrose, making it an appealing option for those looking to reduce their sugar intake.

Although maltitol is nearly as sweet as sugar, its caloric content is significantly lower, which contributes to its growing popularity as a sugar alternative. Commonly used in food and beverage production, maltitol has a variety of applications, including cooking and baking, due to its versatile and stable nature. However, when incorporating maltitol into one’s diet, it is essential to be aware of its potential side effects.

Key Takeaways

  • Maltitol is a sugar alcohol with a sweet taste similar to sucrose and a lower caloric content.
  • This sugar substitute is commonly used in a variety of applications, including food and beverage production.
  • When consuming maltitol, it’s important to be aware of potential side effects, such as digestive discomfort.

What is Maltitol?

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol, also known as a polyol, used as a sweetener in various food products. It is derived from maltose, a disaccharide sugar, through a process called dehydrogenation, which involves the removal of hydrogen. Maltitol is obtained from starch and is considered a carbohydrate. While it is almost as sweet as sugar, it contains fewer calories and has a lower glycemic index, making it a popular choice for those watching their sugar intake.

Sugar alcohols like maltitol are found naturally in some fruits and vegetables, as well as in chicory leaves and roasted malt. They are neither sugar nor alcohol, despite the name. The term “sugar alcohol” refers to their chemical structure, which resembles both sugar and alcohol molecules. Maltitol and other sugar alcohols are incompletely digested by the human digestive system, which contributes to their lower glycemic impact.

Maltitol is commonly used in a variety of food products, such as candies, ice cream, and baked goods, as a low-calorie sweetener and thickener. Its popularity can be attributed to its ability to provide sweetness without causing rapid spikes in blood sugar or insulin levels. This characteristic makes maltitol a suitable alternative for people with diabetes or those following a low-carbohydrate diet.

In summary, maltitol is a sugar alcohol derived from maltose, serving as a low-calorie sweetener in various food products. It offers a similar sweet taste as sugar, with a lower glycemic index and fewer calories, making it a popular choice for those seeking sugar alternatives.

Maltitol vs Other Sugar Alcohols

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol commonly used as a sugar substitute due to its similar sweetness but fewer calories. Sugar alcohols, also known as polyols, are found naturally in some fruits and vegetables and are used as low-calorie sweeteners. This section compares maltitol with other popular sugar alcohols: sorbitol, xylitol, and erythritol.


Sorbitol is another sugar alcohol that is often used in sugar-free candies, gums, and other products. Like maltitol, it provides fewer calories than sugar (about 2.6 calories per gram) and has a slower impact on blood sugar levels. However, sorbitol is less sweet than maltitol, requiring higher amounts to achieve the same sweetness level.


Xylitol is a sugar alcohol used in various sugar-free products such as gum, toothpaste, and some baked goods. It has a similar sweetness to sugar but contains about 2.4 calories per gram. Xylitol is known for its dental benefits, as it can help reduce the risk of tooth decay. However, it is essential to note that xylitol can be toxic to dogs and must be kept away from pets.


Erythritol is another sugar alcohol that is gaining popularity due to its virtually zero-calorie content (about 0.24 calories per gram) and its ability to blend well with other sweeteners. It offers a similar taste to sugar without raising blood sugar or insulin levels. Erythritol is also considered the easiest to digest among sugar alcohols, leading to fewer gastrointestinal side effects.

Maltitol in Food and Beverages

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol, also known as a polyol, which serves as a sugar substitute. It has 75-90% of the sweetness of sucrose (table sugar) and is used in various food items due to its low-calorie content and similarity to sugar in terms of taste and texture.

Baked Goods

In baked goods, maltitol is a popular choice because it doesn’t promote tooth decay and has a lesser effect on blood glucose levels. This makes it a suitable option for sugar/calorie reduction in products like cookies, cakes, and pastries.

Candy and Chocolates

Maltitol is widely used in candy and chocolate production for its sweetness and low-calorie content. It helps maintain the desired texture and taste, making it a popular choice for sugar-free and low-calorie products such as chocolate bars, hard candies, and soft chews.

Chewing Gum

Chewing gum manufacturers also utilize maltitol as a sweetener due to its properties that prevent tooth decay. Its low impact on blood glucose levels makes it a popular ingredient in sugar-free and low-sugar chewing gum varieties.

Ice Cream

In ice cream production, maltitol is employed as a sugar substitute, offering similar sweetness to table sugar with reduced calories. Its presence helps in maintaining the desired consistency and smoothness of the ice cream while keeping the calorie count low.

Maltitol Health Benefits

Blood Sugar Management

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol that has a lower glycemic index (GI) than regular table sugar. This means that it has a lesser impact on blood glucose levels, making it a suitable option for people who need to manage their blood sugar. It’s important to note, however, that consuming large amounts of maltitol can still lead to an increase in blood glucose levels and may require monitoring by a healthcare provider.

Dental Health

One of the advantages of using maltitol as a sugar substitute is its positive effect on dental health. Since maltitol is sugar-free, it doesn’t contribute to tooth decay or cavities. Unlike regular sugar, maltitol doesn’t produce acid when it interacts with the bacteria in the mouth, reducing the risk of dental problems.

Weight Management

Maltitol has fewer calories compared to table sugar, which can be beneficial for weight management. Incorporating maltitol in a balanced diet could contribute to weight loss, especially if one is replacing high-calorie sweeteners. However, it is essential to make sure that maltitol consumption is moderate and to consult a healthcare provider before making any significant dietary changes.

Maltitol Side Effects

Maltitol is a sugar substitute that is commonly used because of its similarity to sugar, but with fewer calories. However, maltitol may have some side effects that could be concerning. Here are some possible side effects of maltitol consumption:

Gastrointestinal Issues

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol, and when consumed in large amounts, it may cause gastrointestinal issues such as gas, bloating, and flatulence. This is because sugar alcohols are generally not fully absorbed by the gut, leading to fermentation by gut bacteria and resulting in gas production. Moreover, sugar alcohols may increase water retention in the intestines, which can lead to bloating.

Laxative Effect

One of the most common side effects of maltitol consumption, particularly in high doses, is its laxative effect. This can manifest as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, or stomach pain. If you experience any of these symptoms after consuming products containing maltitol, try reducing your intake to see if symptoms improve. It is important to note that individual tolerance to maltitol may vary, and some people may experience the laxative effect at lower doses than others.

Insulin Sensitivity

Maltitol may still have an impact on blood sugar levels, despite being a low-calorie sweetener. Although maltitol has a lower glycemic index compared to sugar, it can still cause a rise in blood sugar levels, which could affect insulin sensitivity in individuals with diabetes or other blood sugar management issues. Therefore, it is advised to monitor your blood sugar levels and consult with a healthcare professional when incorporating maltitol into your diet if you have concerns about maintaining insulin sensitivity.

Maltitol in Cooking and Baking

Baking Tips

Maltitol is a popular sugar substitute in cooking and baking, particularly for those looking to reduce sugar intake. As a sugar alcohol, maltitol provides a sweetness similar to sugar but with fewer calories. When using maltitol in recipes, it is essential to keep a few tips in mind:

  • Maltitol can be used in a 1:1 ratio to replace sugar in most recipes.
  • Due to its inability to caramelize or brown like sugar, maltitol may not be suitable for some recipes that require these properties.
  • Adjust the cooking temperature and time, as maltitol may bake more quickly than sugar.

Sweetness and Texture

Maltitol’s sweetness is approximately 75-90% that of sugar, providing a similar taste without the increased calorie count. The texture of maltitol is also quite similar to that of sugar, making it a good option for various baking applications. However, in large quantities, it may cause a laxative effect in some people. Keep this in mind when consuming products made with maltitol.

Using Maltitol Syrup and Powder

Maltitol is available in both syrup and powdered forms for use in cooking and baking:

  • Maltitol Syrup: Often used in candies, chewing gum, chocolates, and ice cream, maltitol syrup works well in recipes that require a smooth, thick consistency. The syrup contains 50-80% maltitol by weight, making it a versatile ingredient in various applications. Since it’s a liquid, adjustments to the recipe’s liquid content may be necessary.

  • Maltitol Powder: The powdered form of maltitol is commonly used in baked goods and other dry applications. As it is a dry ingredient, it can be directly substituted for sugar in most recipes without any adjustments.

Remember to experiment with maltitol in various recipes to find the perfect balance of sweetness, texture, and consistency for your taste preferences.

Maltitol Safety and Regulations

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol made by reducing maltose, a type of carbohydrate that is neither sugar nor alcohol. It is used as a sugar substitute due to its similar taste and properties, with a slower rise in blood sugar and insulin levels compared to d-glucose or sucrose. Maltitol has several regulatory and safety approvals, which are discussed below.

FDA Approval

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not issued an official approval for maltitol as a food ingredient, but it has granted maltitol a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status. This means that maltitol has been determined to be safe for consumption based on the available scientific evidence and expert opinions.

GRAS Status

As mentioned earlier, maltitol is classified as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA, which indicates that it is safe for consumption in the quantities found in foods. Products containing maltitol must still comply with other FDA regulations, including proper labeling and quality standards.

European Regulations

In Europe, maltitol is regulated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The EFSA has approved maltitol for use as a sweetener in various food products, including sugar-free candies and chocolates. European food manufacturers must adhere to strict guidelines when using maltitol to ensure its safety and effectiveness as a sugar substitute.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the uses of maltitol powder?

Maltitol powder is a sugar alcohol derived from maltose and is commonly used as a sugar replacement in various food products. It is found in sugar-free products such as chocolates, baked goods, and confectionery. Maltitol provides a similar sweetness to sugar but with fewer calories and a lower glycemic index, making it a popular choice for those looking to reduce their sugar intake.

How does maltitol compare to stevia?

Maltitol and stevia are both sugar substitutes, but they differ in several ways. Maltitol is a sugar alcohol with a taste and mouthfeel similar to sugar, while stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Stevia is much sweeter than maltitol and has virtually no calories. However, stevia has a distinct aftertaste that some people may find unpleasant. In contrast, maltitol is less sweet than sugar and has fewer calories but a more similar taste profile to sugar.

What are the health effects of maltitol?

Maltitol is considered a safe sugar substitute, as it causes a slower rise in blood sugar and insulin levels compared to glucose or sucrose. This makes it a suitable option for those with diabetes or those looking to regulate their blood sugar levels. However, excessive consumption of maltitol may lead to digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea, as it is incompletely digested by the human digestive system.

How many calories are in maltitol?

Maltitol has fewer calories than sugar, with approximately 2 to 2.7 calories per gram compared to the 4 calories per gram found in sugar. This makes it a popular choice for people looking to reduce their calorie and sugar intake while still enjoying sweet-tasting foods.

Can maltitol cause digestive issues?

Yes, maltitol can cause digestive issues when consumed in excessive amounts. Because it is incompletely digested and absorbed by the body, maltitol can lead to bloating, gas, and diarrhea, especially in sensitive individuals or those consuming large quantities of products containing maltitol.

Is maltitol suitable for a keto diet?

Maltitol is not ideal for a keto diet because it still has a glycemic index and can cause a rise in blood sugar levels, albeit slower than regular sugar. While it has fewer calories and net carbs than sugar, there are other low-carb sweeteners, like erythritol or stevia, that are better suited for a keto diet due to their lower glycemic index and minimal impact on blood sugar levels.