Is Maltitol a Safe Alternative Sweetener?

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol that contains carbohydrates and calories

sugar-free candy
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Giving up sweet treats can be challenging, but not all sugar alternatives are the same. People following a low-carb or low-sugar diet often turn to low- or zero-calorie sweeteners to help them stick to their program. Some sweeteners—such as maltitol—still provide calories and affect blood sugar.

What Is Maltitol?

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol—a type of carbohydrate that is neither sugar nor alcohol—made by reducing maltose. It is used as a sugar replacement that causes a slower rise in blood sugar and insulin than d-glucose or sucrose. Maltitol is incompletely digested by the human digestive system. For these reasons, it is often recommended for those with diabetes.

Maltitol and other sugar alcohols are similar to sugar in terms of taste, texture, and interaction with other ingredients. These sweeteners are commonly used in low-carb or "sugar-free" products such as candy and nutrition bars.

Sugar alcohols are found naturally in some fruits and vegetables. They may also be commercially produced. Products that use maltitol and other sugar alcohols, such as erythritol, as sweeteners can be called "sugar-free," despite the fact they might still affect blood sugar.

Types of Maltitol

Maltitol is available in granular, powdered, and liquid (syrup) forms. If you use it to sweeten your tea or coffee, the liquid form will work best. You may be able to use maltitol syrup instead of corn syrup or honey in some recipes.

Maltitol Syrup

Maltitol syrup is made from hydrogenation from high-maltose glucose syrups, is 60 to 80% as sweet as sucrose, and has about 3 calories per gram. It's suitable for people with diabetes and those who want to reduce sugar in their diets.

Powdered and Granular Maltitol

Powdered or crystalline (granular) maltitol is used as a sugar substitute, but it's not a one-for-one replacement. It's approximately 80 to 90% as sweet as sugar but contains only a little over half the amount of calories. It's used frequently in sugar-free products you find in stores. Baking with powdered or granular maltitol is not always straightforward, so check the package and specific recipe details before substituting.

Maltitol vs. Sugar

  • 4 calories per gram

  • Glycemic index of 60

  • 100% sweetness

  • Promotes cavities

  • 2–3 calories per gram

  • Glycemic index of 52

  • 75% to 90% sweetness

  • May help prevent cavities

Like sugar, maltitol is a carbohydrate that contains calories. The body does not absorb all the calories in maltitol, but it still provides about 2 to 3 calories per gram, compared to four calories per gram of sugar. Since maltitol is a carbohydrate with calories, it also affects blood glucose.

Maltitol syrup has a glycemic index of 52, which approaches that of table sugar at 60. The glycemic index is a measure of the effects of food on raising your blood glucose level. The powdered form has a glycemic index of 35, which is still higher than most other sugar alcohols and higher than all artificial sweeteners.

Maltitol is estimated to have around 80% to 90% of the sweetness of sugar. Information provided by industry groups tends to give the 90% figure, while other sources say 75%.

If maltitol has three-fourths of the sweetness of sugar, three-fourths the calories of sugar, and three-fourths the glycemic index of sugar, then many consumers may end up consuming one-fourth more maltitol to get the same effect as sugar.

If you consume slightly more maltitol, you may not gain a substantial benefit when you use it as a replacement for sugar. In fact, you're basically making maltitol a more expensive way to sweeten your food. For this reason, it may not be the best choice for those on keto diets as it isn't truly carbohydrate free and is often consumed in higher quantities to obtain the same level of sweetness, limiting the benefits as a sugar replacement.


While maltitol shares some drawbacks with sugar, it does provide some benefits that are notable.

Calorie Reduction

Maltitol has fewer calories than sugar, so switching to maltitol instead of sugar can save you calories. The increased calorie deficit may provide a benefit if you are a person who typically consumes significant calories from sugar each day. Additionally, it may help you to wean yourself off sugar entirely if you gradually decrease the amount you use.

Dental Health

Maltitol may be better for your teeth than sugar. Researchers have studied the use of maltitol products on dental health with some positive findings. However, they are cautious about recommending maltitol over other low- or zero-calorie sweeteners.

In one report, dental researchers evaluated the impact of sugar alcohols on dental health. They noted that xylitol products provide the most significant benefit for your teeth (when used as an alternative to sugar). Regarding maltitol, they concluded that there is some evidence to support that it promotes better dental health, but the evidence is lacking on whether it prevents cavities.

In another study, researchers evaluated gingivitis and plaque scores on people who chewed gum sweetened with maltitol or xylitol compared to those who did not chew gum. They found that gum chewers who were not regular teeth-brushers benefited from increased saliva flow.

So, if you use gum to alleviate a dry mouth or freshen your breath, switching to a maltitol-sweetened gum may help you achieve the same benefit without the added sugar.

Maltitol may provide certain health and dental benefits for some people, but research has provided mixed results about the advantages of using this sweetener, especially when compared to others on the market.

Side Effects

Some people who consume maltitol, especially in large quantities, may experience intestinal gas and cramping. Others may even experience more severe cramping and diarrhea. Scientists recommend staying under 10g daily of sugar alcohols to avoid side effects such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

If you decide to eat or drink products with maltitol, start with a small amount first to see how your body reacts. If you notice side effects or are concerned you may be sensitive to maltitol, be mindful of where and when you eat it. Cut back or eliminate it from your diet if necessary.

Those with IBS or similar symptoms of gastrointestinal distress may find maltitol and other sugar alcohols aggravate their symptoms. If you experience severe symptoms, try a maltitol alternative or talk to a healthcare provider about your digestive symptoms to rule out any other problems you may have. If you are on a low-FODMAP diet, you should avoid maltitol.


There are several sugar alternatives on the market, each with pros and cons. Most provide fewer calories (or zero calories) as compared to maltitol. But some have a taste or texture that you may not prefer.

The best alternatives to products with maltitol are usually made with erythritol. Products made with erythritol may combine the ingredient with other artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose (Splenda), for optimal taste and texture.

You can also use a low-calorie sweetener like stevia, which has less than four calories and zero carbs per packet. Stevia is considered a more "natural" sweetener and is preferred by some for that reason. Stevia also has a zero glycemic index, making it a safe choice for people with diabetes and those following a low-carb or low-sugar eating plan.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Laura Dolson
Laura Dolson is a health and food writer who develops low-carb and gluten-free recipes for home cooks.