Polyols, also known as sugar alcohols, are made from maize or wheat. Polyols are used in an increasingly wide variety of food products, primarily because of its great benefits on intestinal health. Polyols are low-digestible carbohydrates which, in contract with sugar, are hardly absorbed in the small intestine. When you consume polyol, for example when you eat a candy or chew a gum, a large part of it reaches the large intestine where it is fermented by the gut bacteria or ‘microflora’. The fact that polyols are readily fermented by the gut bacteria means that they help to maintain a healthy acidity balance in the colon and keep the digestive tract healthy.
Polyols have also been used for decades in confectionery as a sugar replacer or sugar-free sweetener. In addition, polyols can serve a technical function in food products. For example, they may be used as bulking agents, emulsifiers, stabilisers, humectants, thickeners and texturisers in bakery products and cakes.
Polyols contain fewer calories than table sugar or starch-based sugars like glucose-syrup and glucose-fructose syrup: the caloric value of all polyols is 2,4 kcal/g except erythritol which has 0 kcal/g. Polyols have proven to be extremely beneficial in terms of dental health, Polyols do not promote tooth decay, because they are hardly fermented by oral bacteria, preventing a PH drop in the mouth. In other words, they are tooth-friendly.
Because of their low caloric and low glycaemic value, polyols help consumers to reach a healthier blood glucose level and prevent weight gain.
The most widely used polyols are sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, erythritol, isomalt and xylitol.