Sugar alcohols, also known as polyols, are ingredients with fewer calories than sugar.  They are used in a wide variety of products such as sugar-free gum or candy, toothpaste and mouthwash, ice cream, frozen desserts, frostings, yogurt, fruit spreads, breath mints, and chewable/liquid vitamins.  Sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols.  This term is used because part of their chemical structure resembles sugar and part is similar to alcohols.

You can identify if a product contains a sugar alcohol by looking at the ingredient label (names of sugar alcohols are listed above) and by reading the “Nutrition Facts” panel as the amount of sugar alcohol it contains will be listed under the total carbohydrate.  If a manufacturer uses the term “sugar free” or “no added sugar,” they must list the grams of sugar alcohols.  If only one sugar alcohol is used, the label will list the specific polyol used.  However, if more than one polyol is used, the term “sugar alcohols” must be listed.

For some people, consumption of certain amounts of polyols may cause gastrointestinal effects such as bloating, gas, and even diarrhea.  If you experience these symptoms and suspect that you are sensitive to the amount of polyols you consumed, try reducing the amount you consume on a single occasion.  It may take a few days for your body to adapt to the amount of polyols you are consuming.