Sugar alcohols are carbs that occur naturally in fruits and other plants, and can be manufactured. They are not calorie- or carbohydrate-free, but are lower in calories than table sugar. They are added to products such as ice cream, gum, candy, cookies and other products. Common sugar alcohols include erythritol, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and others. Because sugar alcohols are a form of carbohydrates, they need to be used with caution by diabetics or those at risk for the disorder.
Stevia falls under the general category of novel sweetener instead of one of the above categories. Stevia is a brush plant native to Central and South America, and its leaves contain steviol glycosides, which can be extracted from the leaves and used as a sweetener. Stevia can be found in stores under the names PureVia or Truvia. While stevia does come from a plant, highly refined stevia, unlike sugar alcohols, does not contain calories or carbs, but is found in nature and not manufactured like sugar substitutes. This makes it difficult to place stevia in one specific category. However, some products might add sweetness by combining stevia with a sugar alcohol such as erythritol, according to Harvard’s School of Public Health.
Do Sugar Alcohols contain ALCOHOL?
Yes, and No. Sugar Alcohols are not made with, nor do they contain what we commonly refer to as ALCOHOL (ethanol). Yet they all fall into the chemical class ‘alcohol’ because like all compounds of its class, they contain a hydroxyl group (-OH) is bound to a carbon atom of an alkyl or substituted alkyl group.
Sugar Alcohols are not produced using the alcoholic fermentation process in the way that alcoholic beverages such as beer or wine are produced. Nor are they distilled in the way that gin, vodka or whiskey are. Nor do they contain the alcohol known as ethanol (ethyl alcohol), which is the type of alcohol that is present in all the alcoholic beverages mentioned above.
Are Sugar Alcohols allowed in Muslim countries?
Yes. Sugar alcohols are HALAL. They have been approved for use in foods in Muslim countries such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This table provides regulatory information for various sugar alcohols for the countries of Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
SAUDI ARABIA permits:
- sorbitol and sorbitol syrup (E420)
- mannitol (E421)
- maltitol (E965)
- maltitol syrup
- lactitol (E966)
- xylitol (E967)
In accordance with good manufacturing practices in chewing gum, chocolate, confectioneny, bakery products, jams, jellies and marmalades, breakfast cereals and puddings.