Hunting for hidden carbs, maltodextrin and maltitol
#atkins #low_carb #sugaralcohol #sweetener

So, I bought those allegedly low-carb bars the other day since it's hard to come by any Atkins product in Germany at the moment. They said on the nutritional facts table:

Carbohydrates: 17 g
of which sugars: 1.5 g
and further down somewhere popped up
Fibre: 4 g

So, that's confusing. I want to know what net carbs this bar has since they sell it as a low carb product but to me it seems they have 17 g of carbs (they listed the fibre seperately, not as a sub-category of the carbohydrates). The hidden ingredients list of the bar reveals (if you find it beneath a wrinkle on the wrapper) that the main ingredient is maltitol syrup and 20% milk chocolate with maltitol as sweetener. So, normally I would go on here and just substract the amount of maltitol in that bar from the carbohydrates and count that as net carbs but my instinct as a chemist just pushes me to check wikipedia, check the structure and build-up of the molecule and think a bit. Maltitol is a sugar alocohol but it seemed special to me for a reason. Basically, it's glucose that has been fused together with sorbitol. While our body processes sorbitol very slowly, glucose is a well-known enemy of every Atkins disciple.
What to think of that? I compare Maltitol with other sugar alcohols I use: xylitol (also known as birch sugar, at least in Germany) and erythritol. Both structures are very different from glucose, so I can see from a biochemical standpoint that those molecules are processed differently than glucose. But the first step in processing Maltitol will be splitting the glycosidic bond between sorbitol and the glucose, releasing both into the blood stream. What follows is the typical story you probably know... It involves insulin peaks, fat being stored in cells and all that.

So, my big concern (and a question I can't answer since I'm in no way a nutritionist): Should I count maltitol as a sugar alcohol like xylitol/erythritol or is it, in fact, better to count that as a carbohydrate, just to be sure?

I can't seem to find a good answer for that. One point is, of course, that everyone processes food differently and new sweeteners are popping up from nowhere every day, it's hard to keep track of them as a normal person. But the question still remains how the glucose in maltitol will affect my insulin levels and hence my progress in loosing weight?

And while we're at it, there's another interesting find I wanted to share: Stevia sweeteners. I was looking for a suitable one for a while and I was happy when I found a product that had it as a powder, usable like confectioner's sugar (fluffy flakes). It also said that one teaspoon of that powder will have the same sweetening effect as a teaspoon of sugar. Isn't that great? No problems with overdosing your sweeteners!
Guess what: It may be not that easy. First thing that catched my eye was the calory count on the nutritional facts table: 100 g sweetener contains 94 g carbohydrates. Err, yes, I read that right. 100 g of the sweetener also provide 376 kcal that's quite the same as pure sugar), another hint that made me look at the ingredient list . The carrier substance in that sweetener is maltodextrin, placing first in the contents and being, aside from a bit of steviol glycosides and some 'natural aroma' the only ingredient. Maltodextrin sounds a lot like maltitol, doesn't it?
Wikipedia tells me that maltodextrin is modified starch, obtained by partial hydrolysis (so the chain lenghts of the starch get shorter, which, in fact, helps the body to process it even faster than starch since the whole point in metabolizing starch is to break it down to it's building blocks, glucose). There it is. Maltodextrin contains glucose, too. So, what did I buy here?
In the end I bought a pack of modified starch that's even easier metabolized than normal starch and I should believe that's a low carb alternative to sugar?

The final fun fact I got from the whole stevia sweetener: A big picture on the front tries to convince you of the benefits of this sweetener by showing a teaspoon of the sweetener, labeled with 2 kcal. This teaspoon contains 0.5 g of sweetener. The other teaspoon resembles one filled with sugar, suddenly 20 kcal. Only here our teaspoon contains 5 g of sweetener. I have to admit: they got me on that. The masses were written so small and the two 5's suggest that it's the same amount on the first glance. But this maltodextrin is created in a special spray-drying way to have it popped up and fluffy so a teaspoon contains merely 0.5 g whereas sugar is compact and the same volume is 10 times as heavy. Smart move. I spend 10 USD on that product just to see at home what's really in it.

Am I getting something wrong here? Is maltodextrin an unproblematic carrier for sweeteners? Will it rise my insulin levels? I can't say anything for sure here (again, I'm in no way a nutritionist, just an interested costumer) and as long as no professional can tell me otherwise I won't touch that sweetener again.

If anyone's out here who can contribute some additional information I'd be really grateful. Maybe +Atkins can help? :)
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Maximilian Kubillus (Kubillium)'s profile photo
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