Every Sweetener Ranked by Metabolic Effect

Every Sweetener Ranked by Metabolic Effect

Sugar Alcohols

The final category in the sweetener game is the polyol or sugar alcohol group. They’re a versatile group of sugar supplements and bulking agents with a taste similar to sugar with little caloric value. Many are non -cariogenic, meaning they won’t aid tooth decay. Sugar alcohols are only partially digested in the small intestine and move to the large intestine. This means some sugar alcohols can cause bloating and gas if they are consumed in large amounts. That’s why so many foods contain a combination of high intensity sweeteners, simple sugars and sugar alcohols. It makes it easier on your gut biome to break down without causing discomfort. 

Sugar Alcohol Comparison Chart


Sweetness Equivalence




Glycemic Index

(glucose is 100)

Digestive Tolerance
Erythritol 0.6 0.2 0 very high
Isomalt 0.7 2.0 9 medium
Maltitol 0.9 2.1 34 medium
Sorbitol 0.6 2.6 5 low-medium
Xylitol 0.95 2.4 8 low

The standout in this category is Erythritol because it doesn’t have the same digestive problems as other sugar alcohols. It’s a popular, low-calorie polyol found naturally in foods that have been consumed by humans for thousands of years. This familiarity with our digestive system contributes to its high digestive tolerance since it’s found in grapes, pears, melons and mushrooms to name a few. It also has the added benefit of a 0 glycemic index – meaning it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels. Another bonus is that it’s an antioxidant polyol so it helps reduce oxidative stress in the body by scavenging free radicals.


There are some clear winners here and, although digestive discomfort sometimes means you just need to build up your gut biome, be sure to pay attention to which sweeteners cause discomfort. There is no cure-all for the metabolic disease epidemic across the globe, but with a more informed consumer culture, fans of food can make smarter decisions about what they put in their bodies.


Sucralose – Widely used and approved by over 100 countries, sugar-like taste

Allulose – found in nature, low glycemic index, remarkable sugar-like taste

Erythritol – high digestive tolerance, low calories, found in fruits

Stevia – Plant-derived, pleasant taste (in proper amounts)


Xylitol – Sugar-like taste, but has low digestive tolerance.

Sorbitol -- Low digestive tolerance and lacks sweetness, occurs naturally in many fruits and berries.

Isomalt – Minimal effects on blood sugar and diabetic friendly, but lacks sweetness and has low digestive tolerance.

Honey – Completely natural and rich with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, but has high fructose content.

Sucrose – Since it’s table sugar it tastes great, but greatly contributes to obesity and diabetes.

Glucose – sweet taste, but directly effects glucose levels in the body.

Fruit Juices – Sweet taste and found naturally, but depending on type, can increase glycemic index.


Maltitol – Can cause severe intestinal upset, but still widely used in chocolates.

High Fructose Corn Syrup – Directly linked to raising obesity across the world, prevalent in almost all sweet drinks.

Maltose – Higher glycemic index than table sugar, bad for diabetics and aids in tooth decay.

Maltodextrin – Can damage gut bacteria and has a high glycemic index.

Agave – Very high levels of fructose contributes to diabetes and obesity.

Acesulfame K – Synthetic, has been linked to cancer in rodent studies.

Aspartame – Contains known cancer causing agent phenylalanine.

Saccharine – Must be labeled as cancer causing in lab animals, should be avoided at all costs.


This content was supplied by our sponsor and does not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of M&F’s editorial staff.

For access to exclusive fitness advice, interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!