Sugar alcohols are used as sweeteners in many sugar free foods. They are named sugar alcohols because their structure resembles, you guessed it, sugar and alcohol. While they are labeled as a “sugar free” sweetener, they will raise blood sugar. Deceiving, right? That’s because technically they aren’t “carbohydrate free”. Technicalities man! Technicalities.
How To Bolus for Sugar Alcohols
As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to subtract half (50%) of the sugar alcohol grams from the total carbohydrates (source). From there you would subtract fiber and bolus. Not subtracting fiber? Check out this post on why you probably ought to.
Here’s an example of what it would look like….
Subtract 7g (half of sugar alcohol) from 28g (total carbs). This leaves you with 21g carbs….. subtract 3g (for fiber) and that leaves you with 18g. 18g is what you would bolus for.
There is one MAJOR caveat! The sugar alcohol called Erythritol (popular brand name, Swerve). Erythritol cannot be digest by the body. Meaning it does not raise blood sugar, meaning you would subtract 100% of the sugar alcohol from the total carbohydrates.
For example, using that same label as above here is what the math would look like if the sugar alcohol was erythritol: Subtract 14g (ALL of the sugar alcohol) from 28g (total carbs). This leaves you with 14g carbs….. subtract 3g (for fiber) and that leaves you with 11g. 11g is what you would bolus for.
Sugar alcohols are also slower to act than most carbs, meaning the blood sugar rise will occur later than usual.
Know What Sugar Alcohol You’re Working With
Since all but one sugar alcohol raises BG, you gotta read those labels.
Sugar alcohols that raise your blood sugar are:
Sugar alcohols that don’t raise your blood sugar
- Erythritol (popular brand name Swerve)
The Stinky Side
Sugar alcohols often cause gas, bloating, indigestion, and diarrhea. This is because they are poorly absorbed and hard for the body to digest.
Let’s keep the conversation going!
What’s your experience with sugar alcohol been like? Love it? Hate it? Somewhere in the middle?