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Are sugar alcohols paleo?

by (333)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:25 PM
Created June 24, 2011 at 10:28 PM

Mark sisson's site seems to suggest that it does not cause insulin levels to rise, any thoughts on energy bars that use sugar alcohols and refer to themselves as low carb (net effective carb subtracting fibers and sugar alcohol to yield 1-2 gm of carbs/bar), such as the linked Carbrite bars?

http://www.carbritediet.com/store/html/category.cfm?id=45

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13993 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

Thanx! P.S. I KNOW!! I KNOW!! I MADE IT TO 9000!! :D

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122 · July 11, 2012 at 4:05 PM

Dude, that's just rude. The OP had a genuine question, and wanted a genuine answer. Don't be an ahole. Obviously, they're trying to find things that would be in the realm of Paleo, but don't quite know where to go. How about you contribute something like, "Yes, that sounds good and here is some info why," or, "I would caution against that, and here's some good info why." Last time I checked, Paleo/Primal wasn't a rigid set of hard and fast rules. Sarah Fragoso cops to drinking alcohol and corn chips on occasion, and Mark Sisson talks about sourdough treats. It's a guideline, not a rule book.

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13993 · November 10, 2011 at 2:27 PM

Daz. you may be right on the money with that! I'd never considered it, but it describes me to a tee!

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4373 · November 09, 2011 at 11:49 PM

gilliebean, you may be a 'fructose malabsorber' : "Fructose-and sorbitol-reduced diet improves mood and gastrointestinal disturbances in fructose malabsorbers" : http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11099057 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose_malabsorption

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13993 · November 09, 2011 at 12:46 PM

Good note daz... I'm still skeptical of pulling these out of fruit to sweeten things, but I would guess that's why some fruits give me gas! Hm...

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4373 · November 09, 2011 at 8:18 AM

Sorbitol & Mannitol are also found in a few fruits & vegetables. Sorbitol mainly stone fruits: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/nuttab2010/nuttab2010onlinesearchabledatabase/onlineversion.cfm?&action=nutrientFoods&category=Proximates&nutrientID=SORB Mannitol: raspberry, celery, mushroom, pumpkin: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/nuttab2010/nuttab2010onlinesearchabledatabase/onlineversion.cfm?&action=nutrientFoods&category=Proximates&nutrientID=MANNITOL

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb
4373 · November 09, 2011 at 8:11 AM

just a note. some sugar alcohols (ie. Sorbitol & Mannitol) are also found in a few fruits & vegetables. Sorbitol mainly stone fruits: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/nuttab2010/nuttab2010onlinesearchabledatabase/onlineversion.cfm?&action=nutrientFoods&category=Proximates&nutrientID=SORB Mannitol: raspberry, celery, mushroom, pumpkin: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/nuttab2010/nuttab2010onlinesearchabledatabase/onlineversion.cfm?&action=nutrientFoods&category=Proximates&nutrientID=MANNITOL

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13993 · June 30, 2011 at 10:54 PM

I found a few on pubmed and some anecdotal evidence elsewhere online.

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193 · June 29, 2011 at 6:01 PM

where did you find that link between Erythritol and skin rashes? I searched pubmed but didn't find anything.

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13993 · June 27, 2011 at 6:19 PM

Great links Cyto! What I've read of erythritol shows linkage to allergic skin rashes. Not as serious at organ damage; but something to note, nonetheless.

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193 · June 27, 2011 at 5:02 PM

I know most of what you said applies to sugar alcohols in general, but Erythritol seems unique in that it does not cause any GI distress, affect blood sugar, or have any evidence of causing kidney or liver damage. It is expensive though, around $6 or 7/lb, so i use it sparingly to make cassava cake or coconut waffles. http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v61/n3/abs/1602532a.html http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027869159800091X http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8933643

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17949 · June 27, 2011 at 1:10 AM

This really is a great answer. Also...POWER LEVEL OVER 9000!

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24271 · June 26, 2011 at 4:16 AM

Ah, did not know. Surely someone who is struggling with sugar addiction might want to look at these "fake sugars" and really see if their use is helping or hurting them. I do think they can be helpful to wean yourself off sweet tastes while remaining truly sugar free but if they merely keep the fires of addiction burning then they might need to go as well. I just get upset when I see all sugar alcohols lumped together and vilified when I happen to think Xylitol and erythritol can have their place in a healthy diet for some. Maltitol, sorbitol and the rest are all the spawn of Satan IMO.

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13993 · June 26, 2011 at 3:35 AM

Thanks Cassandra! I hope it doesn't sound too alarmist. Best of health to you! :)

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13993 · June 26, 2011 at 3:34 AM

Thanks Cassandra. I didn't mean to be alarmist. Best of health to you!

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3631 · June 26, 2011 at 3:02 AM

You may be including me in the haters b/c my comment above to the OP was a little harsh -- but it's not because I'm vilifying xylitol, per se, it's because this question is coming from a person who has complained about sugar addiction (who, frankly, doesn't seem to have a healthy approach to eating.. but that's really NOMB), and is now asking PH if some fake-food *bar* is "paleo"! Low-carb "energy" bars sweetened with sugar-alcohols are. not. food. It just isn't the same conversation as xylitol-in-yr-blueberries.

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333 · June 25, 2011 at 10:47 PM

What a great response gilliebean, thanks for sharing... i will stay away..

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3631 · June 25, 2011 at 6:27 PM

fantastic answer!

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3631 · June 25, 2011 at 6:24 PM

they both give me GI probs. fwiw.

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5516 · June 25, 2011 at 12:24 PM

The most convincing reason for me not to eat them was the gut fermentation. After some "sugar free" ice cream... Oh boy not good. Do NOT eat.

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4181 · June 25, 2011 at 10:50 AM

Yeah that doesn't sound pleasant either.

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1801 · June 25, 2011 at 8:15 AM

Sugar alcohols go further for me and the laxative effect is immediate (and not very nice). I learnt not to use them because of this effect...

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827 · June 25, 2011 at 3:52 AM

I don't know if it means anything but I've seen that drinking diet soda (in this case, it was Coke Zero) lowered my blood sugar with in just a few minutes. Tested before, tested about 20 minutes after, dropped 10 points, from 75 to 65. I assumed it was insulin doing it. I should try plain soda water, I guess.

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3631 · June 25, 2011 at 3:25 AM

I think the idea behind "paleo" is to eat real food. Why bother calling it "paleo" if you want to eat fake crap? Just be "on a diet" and call it a day.

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4181 · June 25, 2011 at 1:27 AM

Yeah I don't believe this is true either, I've lost plenty of weight and still used artificial sweeteners as well. Obviously they are not paleo but, according to the link I put in up above to Mark Sisson's take on it (with cites), they do not cause an insulin spike.

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24271 · June 25, 2011 at 1:17 AM

Correlation between weight gain and ingestion of diet soda has been found but correlation is not causation. I lost 150 lbs using a lot of artificial sweetener. I know of many who have done the same. I think some people may be sensitive but I know it's not all. I don't even think it's most. And how do we explain the heavy use of as in the diabetic community with no apparent adverse reactions? Surely they'd be the population to tell us this was an issue. Not saying they're great but I don't think they're the spawn of Satan either.

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24271 · June 25, 2011 at 12:37 AM

I agree. I would not label them paleo but for most I think they are safe. Kinda like white rice. I drink water with a tiny bit of Xylitol in it for my dental health. On the rare occasion that I bake some goodies I will use either or both of these with stevia.

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1626 · June 24, 2011 at 11:21 PM

I first read this as "Are sugar alcoholics paleo?" HAHAHAHAHA As in... sugar addicts. I immediately thought of Castle Grok and his fruitarian ways these days!

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13993 · June 24, 2011 at 10:59 PM

No, no, no!! Do not use!

I will expand my answer after I get back from the movies.

...

I'm baaack!

First of all, sugar alcohols are processed and one of the main tenants of paleo-dogma is that we do not eat processed foods. Now, I know that most people eat some processed foods - I eat Trader Joe's Chicken Sausages, among other types of processed food; but I do my darndest to limit most processed foods in my diet. Strike one against sugar alcohol: it's processed and, by extension, denatured.

Second, most sources will state that sugar alcohols have a low glycemic index because it doesn't raise insulin as quickly as table sugar does. Here's the truth: for some people, sugar alcohols will not raise insulin much because their bodies do not contain the enzymes to break down those sugar alcohols. For those people, the sugar alcohols will travel to the gut, where they will ferment, causing bloating and gas, or they will draw water out of the colon, causing diarrhea. IF you are a person for whom sugar alcohol does not cause gas or bloating, then you likely have the necessary enzymes to break it down into glucose. Congratulations, you've now got glucose hitting your blood stream - didn't we want to avoid that? Strike two: sugar alcohol will either hit your blood as glucose or wreak havoc on your digestive system. Neither are good.

Third, not all sugar alcohols are created equal, as others have pointed out. Some are nearly as insulin-raising as table sugar, others are not. Some can cause rectal bleeding, seizures, edema, rashes, etc; others are downright toxic! Don't dabble until you know for sure which is which! Strike three: not all sugar alcohols are created equal.

Fourth, many sugar alcohols are rumored to be damaging to the liver, the kidney, the bladder and adrenal glands. Until we know for sure, steer clear!

Fifth, sugar alcohols are currently only considered safe (in CW circles) in small doses; but who eats just one square of chocolate - really?!

Finally, insulin has been clinically shown to be raised in some people when they think about sweet food, let alone eat it, regardless of it's actual carbohydrate and sugar content. If you're trying to lose weight, it might be best to avoid sweet things altogether.

P.S. I should mention that Robb Wolf has said that sugar alcohol is fine in a pinch. So don't get too upset if you discovered you've eaten some. You'll likely just get gas or a slight rise in insulin. Just don't seek it out and eat it daily.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

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13993 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

Thanx! P.S. I KNOW!! I KNOW!! I MADE IT TO 9000!! :D

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13993 · November 10, 2011 at 2:27 PM

Daz. you may be right on the money with that! I'd never considered it, but it describes me to a tee!

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4373 · November 09, 2011 at 11:49 PM

gilliebean, you may be a 'fructose malabsorber' : "Fructose-and sorbitol-reduced diet improves mood and gastrointestinal disturbances in fructose malabsorbers" : http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11099057 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose_malabsorption

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13993 · November 09, 2011 at 12:46 PM

Good note daz... I'm still skeptical of pulling these out of fruit to sweeten things, but I would guess that's why some fruits give me gas! Hm...

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb
4373 · November 09, 2011 at 8:11 AM

just a note. some sugar alcohols (ie. Sorbitol & Mannitol) are also found in a few fruits & vegetables. Sorbitol mainly stone fruits: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/nuttab2010/nuttab2010onlinesearchabledatabase/onlineversion.cfm?&action=nutrientFoods&category=Proximates&nutrientID=SORB Mannitol: raspberry, celery, mushroom, pumpkin: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/nuttab2010/nuttab2010onlinesearchabledatabase/onlineversion.cfm?&action=nutrientFoods&category=Proximates&nutrientID=MANNITOL

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13993 · June 30, 2011 at 10:54 PM

I found a few on pubmed and some anecdotal evidence elsewhere online.

6e01c5e248d6a30bb7cb07d536aaf5b6
193 · June 29, 2011 at 6:01 PM

where did you find that link between Erythritol and skin rashes? I searched pubmed but didn't find anything.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208
13993 · June 27, 2011 at 6:19 PM

Great links Cyto! What I've read of erythritol shows linkage to allergic skin rashes. Not as serious at organ damage; but something to note, nonetheless.

6e01c5e248d6a30bb7cb07d536aaf5b6
193 · June 27, 2011 at 5:02 PM

I know most of what you said applies to sugar alcohols in general, but Erythritol seems unique in that it does not cause any GI distress, affect blood sugar, or have any evidence of causing kidney or liver damage. It is expensive though, around $6 or 7/lb, so i use it sparingly to make cassava cake or coconut waffles. http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v61/n3/abs/1602532a.html http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027869159800091X http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8933643

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d
17949 · June 27, 2011 at 1:10 AM

This really is a great answer. Also...POWER LEVEL OVER 9000!

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208
13993 · June 26, 2011 at 3:35 AM

Thanks Cassandra! I hope it doesn't sound too alarmist. Best of health to you! :)

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13993 · June 26, 2011 at 3:34 AM

Thanks Cassandra. I didn't mean to be alarmist. Best of health to you!

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333 · June 25, 2011 at 10:47 PM

What a great response gilliebean, thanks for sharing... i will stay away..

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3631 · June 25, 2011 at 6:27 PM

fantastic answer!

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5516 · June 25, 2011 at 12:24 PM

The most convincing reason for me not to eat them was the gut fermentation. After some "sugar free" ice cream... Oh boy not good. Do NOT eat.

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24271 · June 26, 2011 at 1:33 AM

Ouch. All the hate??? I've got bad news for most of you: you're already ingesting xylitol if you ear berries, plums, endive, mushrooms and many other fruits and veggies. It's IN a lot of our beatiful paleo food already. So are strawberries going to be taken off the paleo-approved list now?

Oh but it gets worse! The human body actually produces xylitol in carbohydrate metabolism. Yep we're eating it in our paleo food and making it in our own bodies! Seems to me you can't get much more paleo than that.

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4373 · November 09, 2011 at 8:18 AM

Sorbitol & Mannitol are also found in a few fruits & vegetables. Sorbitol mainly stone fruits: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/nuttab2010/nuttab2010onlinesearchabledatabase/onlineversion.cfm?&action=nutrientFoods&category=Proximates&nutrientID=SORB Mannitol: raspberry, celery, mushroom, pumpkin: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/nuttab2010/nuttab2010onlinesearchabledatabase/onlineversion.cfm?&action=nutrientFoods&category=Proximates&nutrientID=MANNITOL

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24271 · June 26, 2011 at 4:16 AM

Ah, did not know. Surely someone who is struggling with sugar addiction might want to look at these "fake sugars" and really see if their use is helping or hurting them. I do think they can be helpful to wean yourself off sweet tastes while remaining truly sugar free but if they merely keep the fires of addiction burning then they might need to go as well. I just get upset when I see all sugar alcohols lumped together and vilified when I happen to think Xylitol and erythritol can have their place in a healthy diet for some. Maltitol, sorbitol and the rest are all the spawn of Satan IMO.

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3631 · June 26, 2011 at 3:02 AM

You may be including me in the haters b/c my comment above to the OP was a little harsh -- but it's not because I'm vilifying xylitol, per se, it's because this question is coming from a person who has complained about sugar addiction (who, frankly, doesn't seem to have a healthy approach to eating.. but that's really NOMB), and is now asking PH if some fake-food *bar* is "paleo"! Low-carb "energy" bars sweetened with sugar-alcohols are. not. food. It just isn't the same conversation as xylitol-in-yr-blueberries.

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5531 · June 25, 2011 at 3:53 AM

I just don't see how something that mimics the taste and feeling of sugar will help cure a sugar addiction like most people have. I don't trust the stuff and I know the less sweet stuff I eat, the less I crave. Just my n=1 though.

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193 · June 24, 2011 at 11:05 PM

I don't see any problem with sugar alcohols like Erythritol or Xylitol -- neither one causes me any digestive distress because they are absorbed much differently than Sorbitol or Maltitol.

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3631 · June 25, 2011 at 6:24 PM

they both give me GI probs. fwiw.

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24271 · June 25, 2011 at 12:37 AM

I agree. I would not label them paleo but for most I think they are safe. Kinda like white rice. I drink water with a tiny bit of Xylitol in it for my dental health. On the rare occasion that I bake some goodies I will use either or both of these with stevia.

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855 · June 27, 2011 at 4:56 AM

As a type 1 diabetic, I can attest to the fact that sugar alcohols do, indeed, raise blood sugars. Well, they can. And you won't know which ones do, and which one's done.

Example: Before I went all Primally, I tried to satisfy my sweet tooth with sugar free treats. A bag of SF Reese left my sugar exactly the same. Great. A bag of SF Twizzlers kicked my sugar from 100 to 300. BAD BAD BAD NAUGHTY DIABETIC!!

Every single thing we ingest, processed or not, will affect us differently than it affects someone else, especially when it comes to blood sugar and insulin. 5 carbs will raise my blood sugar about 25 points. Someone who's more sensitive may find that 5 carbs raises their sugar by 50 or 100 points. Same as 1 unit of insulin drops my sugar by about 18 units, which is not good -- it should drop me 40-50 points.

Obviously, a small amount of sugar alcohol (the amount in the one protien bar you need because you woke up late and you'll be chaperoning the high school graduation for most of the day and you DO NOT feel up to an IF since you'll be stuck in the sun trying to wrangle 30 hyperactive 18-year-olds who no longer have to listen to school authority because THIS IS GRADUATION!!!!!) shouldn't be a problem :)

(Can we tell I had a busy day? :)

So, to sum up -- all things in moderation. But watch how you feel after consuming any SAs.

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208 · June 25, 2011 at 12:43 AM

Here is a problem that I learned of when I started paleo vs just low carb: If you are trying to lose weight, you need to avoid ALL sweets.
It has been documented that people gain weight drinking diet coke. Why? Your body detects sweets in the mouth and starts to release insulin. If your snack only had that diet coke, you would have all this insulin in your bloodstream with nothing to do. Your body then sends a signal that it needs food. ergo, weight gain.

Also, it is best just to forget about the sweeteners, period. I confess I am a little slack on this. If I am out for brunch, I want some coffee, and it needs splenda. But when I was more strict (restarting whole30 soon), I found that when I cut out the artificial sweetener (I had been no sugar for years), I lost my sweet tooth. Diet coke was too sweet for me.

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827 · June 25, 2011 at 3:52 AM

I don't know if it means anything but I've seen that drinking diet soda (in this case, it was Coke Zero) lowered my blood sugar with in just a few minutes. Tested before, tested about 20 minutes after, dropped 10 points, from 75 to 65. I assumed it was insulin doing it. I should try plain soda water, I guess.

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4181 · June 25, 2011 at 1:27 AM

Yeah I don't believe this is true either, I've lost plenty of weight and still used artificial sweeteners as well. Obviously they are not paleo but, according to the link I put in up above to Mark Sisson's take on it (with cites), they do not cause an insulin spike.

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24271 · June 25, 2011 at 1:17 AM

Correlation between weight gain and ingestion of diet soda has been found but correlation is not causation. I lost 150 lbs using a lot of artificial sweetener. I know of many who have done the same. I think some people may be sensitive but I know it's not all. I don't even think it's most. And how do we explain the heavy use of as in the diabetic community with no apparent adverse reactions? Surely they'd be the population to tell us this was an issue. Not saying they're great but I don't think they're the spawn of Satan either.

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4181 · June 24, 2011 at 10:52 PM

I don't know much about them in a technical way but I do know when I've eaten things with sugar alcohols in them i feel more bloated and shitty. Much like gluten for me.

Edit to add Mark Sisson's blog post about whether sweeteners cause an insulin spike Here

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4181 · June 25, 2011 at 10:50 AM

Yeah that doesn't sound pleasant either.

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1801 · June 25, 2011 at 8:15 AM

Sugar alcohols go further for me and the laxative effect is immediate (and not very nice). I learnt not to use them because of this effect...

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