Ask the Diabetes Educator Archive

3/2/04

Q:
Every time I go to the store I see more and more sugar alcohols [in products] and they are not considered carbs by the vendors. I am a type 2 and watch my sugar levels very carefully. When I eat the sugar alcohol my blood sugar behaves as if I ate regular sugar. What is going on? I guess I can't have my cake and eat it to?

A:

"Net" carbs is a marketing tool that isn't totally correct, and will be found on products that have both sugar alcohols (manitol, sorbitol, xilotol) and insoluble fibers in them. Any product that has more than 5 grams of fiber in it, we can deduct all fiber grams over that amount from the total carb count. As for sugar alcohols, only half of the total carbs attributed to them may be deducted; not the total as the label would have you believe. This is not an officially approved label.

Where are you prone to seeing this? On "designer" food products like meal replacement bars and shakes. As always, test you blood sugars to know where you stand with any foods you eat. You may try the same food at "net" and at how you usually count, and see what the difference may be in blood sugars 1 hour after eating. If done in the fasting state, check 30 minutes after each food ingested to see if there is a SIGNIFICANT difference. There will be some variation. When looking at the total caloric content of these designer foods, don't be lulled into a false sense of a dramatically reduced impact on overall caloric intake. "Reduced" does not mean "blocked." Also, high intakes of sugar alcohols can cause diarrhea and/or affect LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.

There are plenty of "real food" combos that can be low-carb and tasty. Remember, too, that it's not just about the carbs; look at sodium and fat contents within the same product. Learn how to thoroughly read a food label, and you will be a wiser and healthier consumer.



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