From Elaine Payne
Owner, Low Carb Connoisseur
As a long time low carb retailer and dieter, I have seen the arrival of most of the low carb
products currently on the market today. In today’s market place, sugar alcohols appear
on the ingredient lists of numerous low carb products from candy and cookies to crackers, and
When you look at the array of sugar alcohol laden candies and other products available now,
it’s hard to believe that we early dieters had to satisfy our cravings for sweets by trading
homemade chocolate candy recipes on Internet message boards. Back when it was hard
to come by commercially made low carb candies and sweets, we still craved them. But our cravings
were tempered not so much by willpower, but by the mere lack of available products.
Many have accused Low Carb diets of being a bit boring back then because of this lack of
commercially prepared products, but I have to think that we were successful because of
this very fact. More successful I believe, today’s dieter who is new to the low carb way of
eating and is being inundated with polyol filled products designed to cater to — not reduce —
their sweet tooth.
The key to being successful on a low carb diet is the same today as it was before this
barrage of specialty processed food. The successful low carb dieter builds their diet by
laying a solid foundation of whole, natural, and most of all healthy, foods.
It is unfair for manufacturers to deceive the low carb consumer into believing
that they are following a low carb diet merely by substituting one junk food for another.
When and if processed foods are added to the diet, the consumer must look beyond
the words “low carb” and consider the product's complete nutritional profile. The consumer
will be well served when a final determination is made as to how they should count the
carbs in sugar alcohols, but in the meantime, a conservative approach to these types of
products is best.
From Mark Uhrmacher
VP of Sales & Marketing
Expert Foods, Inc.
Low carb products are absolutely everywhere and with them come controversial ingredients
like sugar alcohols. The unfortunate fact is sugar alcohols really serve the interests
of manufacturers far better than they do consumers. Manufacturers like them because they
are easy to use as a replacement for granulated sugar and various forms of corn syrup.
This property helps existing manufacturers adapt their conventional products into low-carb
ones without huge investments in new machinery and R&D.
Many of the early producers of
low-carb products limited their use. However, it seems each new player in the low-carb
market increases the amount of sugar alcohols per serving creating what I call a "race to
the bottom." Of course, anyone who has consumed too much of a product containing sugar
alcohols knows the double entendre in that statement.
The disservice to the consumer comes from a couple of major issues:
That slice of low-carb cheesecake from your favorite eatery might be the gift that
keeps on giving.
- Every product that contains sugar alcohols includes a statement on its packaging that is
similar to this one: "Sugar Alcohols have a negligible affect on blood glucose levels."
Unfortunately, the scientific research doesn?t back up this claim. In fact, some recent
studies have refuted it. In my July, 2004 column I referenced a few of these. What is
known is that they produce a blood glucose lower reaction than sugar. However, "less
than sugar" (four calories/gram) and "negligible" (close to 0) are two very different
statements. When a product has a gram or two of these ingredients per serving it
probably isn't a huge problem. However, when products have 10+ grams the holes in
the "negligible" argument are significant.
- Sugar alcohols are laxatives. The FDA requires a warning on any packaged product that
uses them. It usually reads something like, "Excessive consumption can cause laxation."
This is a polite way of describing what can be an incredible uncomfortable state.
Unfortunately, this warning doesn't provide what level is "excessive." That's because
a person's threshold is different from everyone else's. Honestly, the real problem
is that the FDA doesn't require these warnings on food service products. More and
more sugar-alcohol based products are showing up in restaurants, caterers, and hotels.