E965

Maltitol

  • Our verdict: 3 - watch out
  • Latest update & fact check: 29.6.2024 - Rebecca Taylor, CNP
  • Origin: It is produced synthetically and does not come from natural sources.

Maltitol, designated E965, is a sugar alcohol (polyol) used as a sugar substitute. It has a sweet taste similar to sucrose (table sugar) but with fewer calories. Maltitol is known for its smooth, pleasant sweetness and is commonly used in various food products due to its beneficial properties such as not causing tooth decay (non‑cariogenic) and having a lower glycemic index than regular sugar.

Origin

Maltitol has an artificial origin, although it is obtained from natural sources. It is usually produced by hydrogenation of maltose, which is derived from starch. This process involves the conversion of the glucose units in maltose into sugar alcohol units through a chemical reaction with hydrogen.

Characteristics and uses in the food industry

Maltitol is widely used in food products for several reasons:

  • Sweetness: It provides approximately 75‑90% of the sweetness of sucrose. It offers a similar texture to sugar, enhancing the sensory experience of foods.
  • Caloric value: It has approximately 2,1 calories per gram, which is about half the calories of sugar.
  • Glycemic Index: Lower glycemic index than sucrose, making it a better choice for people who are controlling their blood sugar.
  • Does not cause tooth decay: It does not promote tooth decay, which is beneficial for dental health.
  • High temperature stability: It can withstand high temperatures, which is ideal for baked goods and confectionery.

Use in ultra‑processed foods

Maltitol is used extensively in ultra‑processed foods due to its unique properties and benefits:

  • Calorie reduction: it enables the creation of low‑calorie versions of candies, chocolates and baked goods, appealing to health‑conscious consumers.
  • Increased sweetness: Provides approximately 75‑90% of the sweetness of sucrose, allowing for reduced sugar content in products such as ice cream, yogurt and bars without compromising on taste.
  • Texture and mouthfeel: Retains moisture in baked goods and contributes to the desirable texture in chocolates, ensuring that products remain fresh and appealing.
  • Does not cause tooth decay: It does not promote tooth decay, which is suitable for sugar‑free chewing gum and tooth‑friendly candies.
  • Glycemic control: With a lower glycemic index than sugar, maltitol is suitable for diabetic‑friendly foods, providing sweetness without significantly affecting blood glucose levels.
  • Stability at high temperatures: It maintains quality and sweetness in products exposed to high temperatures, such as baked goods and confectionery.
  • Money Saving: Allows for efficient use in mass production, potentially reducing costs by minimizing the need for other sweeteners.
  • Extended shelf life: Improves shelf life by maintaining product quality over time, which is beneficial to retailers and consumers.
  • Influencing eating habits: Satisfies sweet cravings with lower calorie content and perceived health benefits, influencing consumer choices towards healthier options.

Impact on human health

Although maltitol offers several benefits as a sugar substitute, there are some health concerns and potential risks associated with its consumption:

  • Gastrointestinal problems: High intake of maltitol can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, including bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. This is due to its incomplete absorption in the small intestine, which allows it to be fermented by intestinal bacteria.
  • Laxative effect: Consuming large amounts of maltitol can have alaxative effect. Products containing maltitol often carry warnings about this possible side effect.
  • Effect on blood sugar levels: Although it has a lower glycemic index than sugar, maltitol can still raise blood glucose levels, so people with diabetes should monitor their intake and consider their total carbohydrate intake.
  • Allergic reactions: In rare cases, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to maltitol, although this is uncommon.

Sources

  1. Livesey, G. (2003). Health potential of polyols as sugar replacers, with emphasis on low glycaemic properties. Nutrition Research Reviews, 16(2), 163‑191. doi:10,1079/NRR200372
  2. O'Donnell, K. (1999). Maltitol. In Sweeteners and Sugar Alternatives in Food Technology (pp. 215‑229). Blackwell Science Ltd.
  3. Food and Drug Administration. (2020). High‑Intensity Sweeteners. Retrieved from FDA website
  4. Healthline. (2021). What Is Maltitol and Is It Safe?. Retrieved from Healthline website
  5. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2012). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(5), 739‑758. doi:10,1016/j.jand.2012,03.016
  6. PubMed Central (PMC).(2020). "Health Implications of Maltitol: A Review of Current Literature". Link