Maltitol syrup is made from maltitol, a sugar alcohol or polyol used in low-carbohydrate, sugar-free products such as diet snacks, nutrition bars and candy. Like most sugar alternatives and low-carbohydrate sweeteners, maltitol has only a fraction of the carbohydrates in real sugar, but it is sweet enough to produce the equivalent taste in the products it is used in. Unlike real sugar, it does not contribute to tooth decay. As with all other food and cooking additives, though, studies show positive and negative aspects of using it.
The chief use of maltitol syrup is in low-carbohydrate food for dieters, but it can also be used by diabetic people who need to keep their sugar intake down. The sugar substitute is quite popular, but in recent times it has been the subject of some criticism. Studies have shown that it is not as low in carbohydrates as previously thought. Manufacturers have always said that one gram of maltitol syrup provides about two calories, which is half of the four calories provided by one gram of real sugar. However, actual analyses indicate that the number of calories per gram of maltitol is closer to three, not two.
Furthermore, maltitol syrup has a rather high glycemic index of 52, which is quite close to 60, the index for table sugar. Maltitol powder has a lower glycemic index of 36, but this is still higher than that of other artificial sweeteners. Because of these numbers, maltitol may not be as effective for dieting and reducing carbohydrate intake as people might think. Some people even claim that maltitol use may be the very reason why some dieters fail to reach their target weights despite their controlled diets.
Another related issue is the potential of side effects with maltitol. Some people who consume maltitol experience gastro-intestinal problems, particularly diarrhea. Others suffer from stomach cramps, intestinal gas and bloating. These things happen because like other sugar alcohols, maltitol syrup is very slowly absorbed in the digestive tract. Hence it can produce a laxative effect. When large quantities of maltitol are consumed, there is a greater probability that it will result in diarrhea. It is therefore recommended to take small amounts of maltitol at first to judge how your body will react to it. When no side effects are experienced, the amount taken may be gradually increased.
One can also try using alternatives to maltitol that have lower caloric content but come close to the sweetness of table sugar. Many dietitians recommend erythritol-based sweeteners such as sucralose. These sugar substitutes are also less likely to lead to the experience of gastro-intestinal side effects.