Polyols Q&A

Polyols, also called sugar alcohols, are a group of versatile, reduced-calorie carbohydrates that provide the taste and texture of sugar with about half the calories.  They are used as food ingredients to replace sugar in an increasing variety of sugar-free and reduced-calorie foods and beverages for their functional and health benefits. These products include chewing gums, candies, ice cream, baked goods and fruit spreads. In addition, they function well in fillings and frostings, canned fruits, beverages, yogurt and tabletop sweeteners.

What are polyols?
What other names are used for polyols?
What sugar replacers (polyols) are now used in the U.S.?
What kinds of products use sugar replacers (polyols) as sweetening ingredients?
What other foods sweetened with sugar replacers (polyols) are expected in the future?
What are their health benefits?
Do they cause gastrointestinal problems?
What should a person do if he or she is sensitive?
Are they safe?
How do their calories compare with sugar?
How do they function differently as ingredients in foods?
Can they be used in foods that are heated or cooked?
How are they used differently in the body?
Why do they not cause tooth decay?
Are they useful for people with diabetes?
How should they be calculated in exchange lists for meal planning?
Where is information about sugar replacers (polyols) found on the food label?
When are they included in the Nutrition Facts panel?
Why are they used in combination with other sweeteners?


  1. The Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)
  2. Sugar replacers (polyols) do not participate in the Maillard reaction.
  3. A significant amount of the unabsorbed sugar replacer (polyol) is metabolized to short chain fatty acids and gases by bacteria in the large intestine. Absorbed sugar replacers (polyols) are generally metabolized by insulin-independent mechanisms.
faq2Do you have questions about low-calorie sweeteners? Want to learn more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle? You asked and we listened. Our resident Registered Dietitians answered the most popular questions about low-calorie sweeteners.