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Old 08-11-2004, 02:45 PM   #1  
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Default Sugar Low Carb Luxury

This is an article I found in "Low Carb Luxury" I got emailed to me. Here's the link to the actual article:

This month, we've asked our Expert Panel members to comment on the use of Sugar Alcohols (polyols) in low carbohydrate specialty foods. It's important to remember that not all members of our Expert Panel will agree with one another. And that we (Low Carb Luxury) may not necessarily always agree with our panel members. But each of them bring some valuable insight to the table. And each has tried to share their viewpoints and reasons behind them.

First, an explanation of sugar alcohols...

Polyols are hydrogenated carbohydrates used as sugar replacers. Chemically, polyols are considered polyhydric alcohols or sugar alcohols because part of their structure resembles sugar and part is similar to alcohols. However, these sugar-free sweeteners are neither sugars nor alcohols, as these words are commonly used.

Sugar Alcohols deliver the close taste and texture of sugar with an average of about half the calories. They're used to replace sugar in many sugar-free and low-calorie foods. Polyols vary in sweetness from about half as sweet as sugar to equally as sweet. Many makers of low carb specialty products have begun using them in greater amounts because they've adopted the practice of deducting them totally from the "net carb" count on the package, and thus get a more "attractive" package to sell carb-wary consumers. This practice is now being hotly debated.

Sugar Alcohols are slowly and incompletely absorbed from the small intestine, which is why they provide fewer calories per gram than carbohydrates. Because they aren’t completely absorbed, consuming moderate to large amounts of polyols at one time can often cause gas and/or laxative effects.

Here's a quick list of common polyols, listed with their calories per gram, their Glycemic Index number, their Insulinaemic Index number (also called the Insulin Sensitivity Index), and their Laxation Threshold (grams per day that most individuals get a laxative effect –– for some it takes far less.)

Calories per gram: 2.6
Glycemic Index: 9
Insulinaemic Index: 11
Laxation Threshold: 50 g/day

Calories per gram: 2.6
Glycemic Index: 13
Insulinaemic Index: 11
Laxation Threshold: 50 g/day

Calories per gram: 2.1
Glycemic Index: 35
Insulinaemic Index: 27
Laxation Threshold: 100 g/day

Calories per gram: 2.0
Glycemic Index: 9
Insulinaemic Index: 6
Laxation Threshold: 50 g/day
Calories per gram: 2.0
Glycemic Index: 6
Insulinaemic Index: 4
Laxation Threshold: 20 g/day

Calories per gram: 1.6
Glycemic Index: 0
Insulinaemic Index: 0
Laxation Threshold: 20 g/day

Calories per gram: 0.2
Glycemic Index: 0
Insulinaemic Index: 2
Laxation Threshold: HIGH g/day

Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates
Calories per gram: 3.0
Glycemic Index: 39
Insulinaemic Index: 23
Laxation Threshold: 70 g/day

From Richard Feinman, Ph.D.
Professor of Biochemistry
State University of New York Downstate Medical Center

What is known scientifically about the physiologic effects of sugar alcohols is well summarized in the introduction. Unfortunately, there is little scientific information on their effects in weight reduction so I cannot offer an expert opinion.

The question also came up at the recent conference on Nutritional and Metabolic Aspects of Low Carbohydrate Diets where a panel of scientists agreed that there was insufficient data to make a judgment. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some people find it a very valuable aide, even a blessing, to dieting, substituting candy bars or other treats containing sugar alcohols for similar products with sugar. Others find that it slows or stops weight loss even in relatively small amounts.

It should be remembered that we do not fully understand the mechanism that makes low carbohydrate dieting effective: beyond the direct control of insulin by glucose, sweetness from any source, nutritive or not, may affect total eating behavior or specific cravings for carbohydrate. The rationale of controlled carbohydrates is that you can regulate your caloric intake and cravings naturally by elimination of sugar and starch. If adding sugar alcohols to the diet interferes with this effect, it is obvious that you should not continue to use them. People who use sugar alcohol products frequently say that they like them as treats the way candy bars are supposed to be used generally. Even the manufacturers do not recommend them as a staple. Popular diet books, at least in the initial phases emphasize hard and fast rules (which helps many new dieters) but in the long run, it seems like the desirable state of any diet is steady weight loss or maintenance, no cravings and no sense that every meal is a battle with your psyche ("I know I really shouldn't eat so much of this.") Particular foods, natural or otherwise, that fit into this can be useful.

The bottom line is that despite the information on glycemic index, net carbohydrate values, etc., scientific data have little to say about a role for sugar alcohols. Individual dieters have to carefully monitor the effect of sugar alcohols on their diet and, despite my role as expert, I think, like Lady Macbeth's doctor "therein the patient must minister to himself."
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