I had to perform an intervention this last week-end. A Sweet Poison fan was overdosing on ‘sugar-free’ treats. She had in her possession, no less than Kopiko, Licorette and two different varieties of Jols.
The well intentioned fructose avoider had obtained all of these sweets from her local pharmacist (a topic for another day) and all of them proudly proclaim that they are “Sugar Free”. Instead of Sugar they all contain the following goodies:
Jols (raspberry apple) – 39% Sorbitol and 7.5% Maltitol
Jols (cranberry green tea) – 33% Sorbitol and 8.8% Maltitol
Licorette - 39% Sorbitol and 7.5% Maltitol
Kopiko – 64% Isomalt and 20% Maltitol
Isomalt consists of two molecules of glucose joined to a molecule of sorbitol and a molecule of mannitol. Mannitol is the sugar alcohol of fructose and is metabolised as if it were fructose.
Maltitol is metabolised to glucose and sorbitol.
About 65% of the sorbitol you eat makes it into your bloodstream where it is converted immediately to fructose by your liver. The other 35% feeds the bacteria in the large intestine resulting in diarrhoea and gas. This is why it is sometimes an important ingredient in ‘natural’ laxatives and why each of these products bears a warning about a potential ‘laxative effect’.
So when you see Sorbitol on the label, your body sees Fructose, well 65% Fructose anyway.
Which means when you see Maltitol on the label your body sees Glucose (50%) and Fructose (50%). This is just like sugar only slightly less of it gets absorbed. You also have the lovely benefit of wind-pain as well (if you eat more than 10-20g of the stuff).
Likewise when you see Isomalt on the label your body once again sees Glucose (50%), Fructose from Sorbitol (25%) and Fructose (25%). Again just like sugar.
Sure, these products (and many more like them) all have less calories than ones containing equivalent quantities of sugar. They achieve this because less of the sugar substitute makes it into your bloodstream. Instead it is feeding the little chaps in your large intestine.
But at the end of the day if fructose is what you are trying to avoid, you might as well be eating sugar for all you are achieving by eating these products.
People wanting to avoid fructose (and who doesn’t) should avoid products containing sorbitol, isomalt maltitol and mannitol.