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Sugar alcohols (also called polyhydric alcohols, polyalcohols, polyols, alditols or glycitols) are organic compounds, typically derived from sugars, that comprise a class of polyols. They are used widely in the food industry as thickeners and sweeteners.
Common sugar alcohols
- 2 carbons: Ethylene glycol
- 3 carbons: Glycerol
- 4 carbons: Erythritol, threitol
- 5 carbons: Arabitol, ribitol, xylitol
- 6 carbons: Galactitol, iditol, inositol, mannitol, sorbitol
- 7 carbons: Volemitol
With the exception of ethylene glycol and glycerol which are liquid, sugar alcohols are water-soluble white/colorless solids. Due to their high boiling and melting point, they are practically odorless and non-volatile.
Ethylene glycol can be bought from most hardware and car shops. Glycerol is sold in pharmacies, and can also be bought online
Withe the exception of ethylene glycol, which is deadly if consumed, all known sugar alcohols are practically non-toxic. Consumption of sugar alcohols affects blood sugar levels, although much less than does sucrose comparing by glycemic index. Sugar alcohols, with the exception of erythritol, may also cause bloating and diarrhea when consumed in excessive amounts. Sugar alcohols do not contribute to tooth decay, as bacteria cannot metabolize it.
Consumption of concentrated glycerol may cause diarrhea, and it's commonly used as laxative in some topics.
Erythritol, xylitol, mannitol and sorbitol are commonly encountered as sweeteners and can be bought in large quantities.
Studies have shown xylitol to be a deterrent to tooth decay. Food containing xylitol also increased bone density in rat studies. So far this hasn't been confirmed in humans.