FAQ

© Danisco Sweeteners Ltd.
Tous droits réservés, Pour tous pays

Answers

What are polyols?
Polyols are sugar-free sweeteners. Polyols are carbohydrates but they are not sugars. They are used volume-for-volume in the same amount as sugar is used, unlike intense sweeteners like acesulfame potassium, aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose which are used in very small amounts.

back to top

What other names are used for polyols?
Since "polyols" is not a consumer friendly term, many nutritionists and health educators refer to polyols as "sugar replacers" when communicating with consumers. Other terms used primarily by scientists are “polyhydric alcohols” and “polyalcohols”.

back to top

What sugar replacers (polyols) are now used in Europe?
Those most frequently used in foods in the European Union (EU) are maltitol and maltitol syrups (E965), isomalt (E953), lactitol (E966), mannitol (E421), sorbitol (E420), xylitol (E967) and erythritol (E968).

back to top

What kind of products use sugar replacers (polyols) as sweetening ingredients?
In the European Union, they are now used in a wide range of products, including chewing gums, candies, ice cream, baked goods and fruit spreads. They are also used in toothpastes, mouthwashes, breath mints and pharmaceuticals such as cough syrups or drops and throat lozenges.

back to top

What other foods sweetened with sugar replacers (polyols) are expected in the future?
Polyols function well in fillings and frostings, canned fruits, yogurt and tabletop sweeteners. Also, some functional foods or nutraceuticals are sweetened with polyols.

back to top

What are their health benefits?
Polyols provide fewer calories per gram than sugar, they do not promote tooth decay and they do not cause sudden increases in blood glucose levels. Because they taste good, people can improve the healthfulness of their diets without having to sacrifice the pleasure of eating sweet foods they enjoy.

back to top

Do they cause gastrointestinal problems?
For the vast majority of consumers, these sweeteners do not cause a problem. In some people, excessive consumption may cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas or laxative effects, similar to reactions to beans and certain high-fibre foods. Such symptoms depend on an individual's sensitivity and the other foods eaten at the same time.

back to top

What should a person do if he or she is sensitive?
Gastrointestinal symptoms, if they occur at all, are usually mild and temporary. If a person believes she/he is sensitive, the amount eaten on a single occasion should be reduced. Most people will adapt after a few days, the same way they do to high fibre foods. Many people with diabetes, for example, have learned from their health professionals to eat only a small amount of sugar-free products containing polyols at first and then to gradually increase these foods in the diet.

back to top

Are they safe?
Polyols have been used in foods around the world for many years. The Joint WHO/FAO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has carefully reviewed them and concluded that they are safe for human consumption. In the European Union, the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), now the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), like JECFA, has given the polyols an ADI “not specified” which is the highest safety rating that can be given to a food additive. This means that the polyols can be used at quantum satis ( no maximum level specified) and usage in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice/GMP). Sorbitol, mannitol, lactitol, xylitol, isomalt, maltitol and erythritol are approved food additives in the EU.

back to top

How do their calories compare with sugar?
Sugar provides approximately 4.0 kcal/g. The energy value used in current EU law for labelling purposes gives polyols the energy value of 2.4 kcal/g; the only exception is erythritol, which is given the energy value of 0 kcal/g.

back to top

How do they function differently as ingredients in foods?
Polyols are used to replace sugar on a volume-for-volume basis: they have the same technical properties than sugar, and physiological benefits.

back to top

Can they be used in foods that are heated or cooked?
Polyols generally do not lose their sweetness when they are heated and in foods that are heated when processed or cooked. However, unlike sugar, they do not usually give a crisp brown surface to foods which are baked. The non-browning property is an advantage for products for which a change in colour is not desired.

back to top

How are they used differently in the body?
Polyols are slowly and incompletely absorbed from the small intestine into the blood. The portion that is absorbed is metabolized by processes that require little or no insulin. Some of the portion that is not absorbed into the blood is broken down into smaller segments in the large intestine. Erythritol differs from other polyols in that it is almost fully absorbed and not metabolized.

back to top

Why do they not cause tooth decay?
Polyols are hardly converted to acids by bacteria in the mouth and, therefore, do not promote tooth decay.

back to top

Are they useful for people with diabetes?
Because these sweeteners have lower caloric values, they may help people with diabetes achieve their weight goals. Non-cariogenic throat lozenges may also be useful if a person's medications cause dryness of the mouth. Polyols also cause smaller increases in blood glucose and insulin levels than sugars and other carbohydrates. Therefore, snacks sweetened with them may be useful. People with diabetes should consult their physician or other health professional about the usefulness of polyols in their daily meal plan.

back to top

Where is information about polyols found on the food label?
The polyol name or the E number and function of the polyol appear in the ingredient list.

back to top

Why are they used in combination with other sweeteners?
Sweetness varies among the polyols and depends in part on the products in which they are used. They vary in sweetness from about half as sweet as the same amount of sugar to equally sweet as sugar. Sometimes combining polyols gives a more pleasant taste. Polyols are frequently combined with other alternative sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium, aspartame, saccharin and sucralose, in sugar-free chewing gums, candies, frozen desserts and baked goods. The polyol gives these foods mild sweetness as well as the bulk and texture of sugar; the other alternative sweeteners bring the sweetness up to the level consumers expect.

back to top

Text is based on Calorie Control Council website material on polyols ( Copyright © 2004 Calorie Control Council), but edited for the EU market)