Maltitol – sugar reduction in practice

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol with great sweetness and good functional properties, making it useful in many different foods. As with all sugar alcohols, it is important to be careful with the dosage to not upset the stomach. But what about the GI value?

12 May 2020 •

Sugar reduc­tion is excit­ing but com­plex work. In an arti­cle series, we will look at some ingre­di­ents that can be used to reduce sug­ar in foods. How can the ingre­di­ents be used and what should be con­sid­ered? These are ques­tions we should answer! In this arti­cle, we take a clos­er look at malti­tol.

What is maltitol?

Maltitol is a sug­ar alco­hol that can be extract­ed in var­i­ous ways. For the large-scale indus­try, the start­ing point is to use starch from wheat, pota­toes, corn, rice, cas­sa­va, or any oth­er crop that is rich in starch. If you want to know more about malti­tol and how it is extract­ed, you can read more about it in the arti­cle Maltitol - from seed to Eureba.

Sweet and tasty

Maltitol is a bulk sweet­en­er that is close to sug­ar when it comes to sweet­ness. More specif­i­cal­ly, malti­tol has 80–90 per cent of the sweet­ness of sug­ar. And on top of that, malti­tol offers a nice taste that is very sim­i­lar to sug­ar. Therefore, malti­tol is pop­u­lar as a sweetener.

Fairly low in calories

Maltitol has 2.4 kcal per gram. There is, how­ev­er, anoth­er sug­ar alco­hol that is bet­ter in this respect, name­ly ery­thri­tol which has 0 kcal per gram. But things must be put into con­text. Ordinary sug­ar is 4 kcal per gram.

The com­bi­na­tion of fine bulk prop­er­ties and rel­a­tive­ly high sweet­ness, while at the same time pro­vid­ing few­er calo­ries than sug­ar, explains why this sug­ar alco­hol is so pop­u­lar in sug­ar reduction.

Glycemic index

Let’s be frank – there are sug­ar alco­hols that per­form bet­ter, to put it mild­ly. The GI val­ue is per­haps the weak­est point of malti­tol. At least in rela­tion to oth­er sug­ar alco­hols. Compared to sug­ar, malti­tol has a GI val­ue of just over half the amount found in sug­ar. Whether malti­tol has a high or low GI sim­ply depends on what we com­pare it to.

No cooling effect

The endother­mic reac­tion that gives a cool­ing sen­sa­tion in the mouth is neg­li­gi­ble in malti­tol unlike oth­er sug­ar alco­hols (eg ery­thri­tol). In addi­tion, malti­tol is kind to the teeth and does not cause caries.

What can you use it for?

Maltitol has many great prop­er­ties that come well in hand when it comes to prod­uct devel­op­ment and sug­ar reduc­tion. It is par­tic­u­lar­ly suit­able for dairy prod­ucts where ice cream is a prime exam­ple. Other dis­tinc­tive foods where malti­tol comes into its own are choco­late, chew­ing gum and pastries.


There are many sug­ar alco­hols that can fit in choco­late. But most also have some lim­i­ta­tions. Many have only half the sug­ar sweetness.

An excep­tion is xyl­i­tol, which cer­tain­ly has a high sweet­ness but also a dis­tinc­tive cool­ing effect.

The remain­ing one is malti­tol. In addi­tion to offer­ing high sweet­ness, you also avoid the endother­mic reac­tion. Maltitol also has a high melt­ing point.

A high melt­ing point increas­es the chance for the choco­late to stay in a sta­ble state if it dis­solves. A low melt­ing point can result in grain­i­ness or lumps in the choco­late, which can lead to an unpleas­ant mouth­feel. With a high melt­ing point, you instead get a con­trolled tex­ture and melt­ing prop­er­ties that are sim­i­lar to sugar.

Ice cream

In ice cream, you can replace sug­ar with malti­tol. Maltitol mol­e­cules, in prin­ci­ple, weigh as much as sug­ar mol­e­cules. This means that sug­ar and malti­tol have the same freez­ing point depres­sion, which in turn gives ice cream made with malti­tol a sim­i­lar mouth­feel com­pared to con­ven­tion­al ice cream made with sugar.

Chewing gum

Maltitol also fits well in chew­ing gum. Especially con­sid­er­ing that malti­tol, just like oth­er sug­ar alco­hols, does not cause caries.

Another rea­son why malti­tol fits well in, for exam­ple, chew­ing gum is that it has a low hygro­scop­ic lev­el. Hygroscopy is a sub­stance’s abil­i­ty to absorb mois­ture. Maltitol does not begin to absorb mois­ture until the humid­i­ty is greater than 80 per cent.

But why is this a good trait then?

Well, it does affect the dura­bil­i­ty of a prod­uct – all the way from the fac­to­ry to the shelf in the gro­cery store. A chew­ing gum retains its tex­ture and glossy appear­ance for a long time. In addi­tion, you do not need to take into account a cer­tain type of stor­age and han­dling of the food in spe­cial­ly adapt­ed premises.

May upset your stomach

Just like with oth­er sug­ar alco­hols, you need to watch out for dos­ing. Otherwise, the stom­ach says away. If malti­tol con­sti­tutes 10% by weight or more of the food, there must be a small warn­ing text about the lax­a­tive effect.

Biscuits and cookies

Maltitol is applic­a­ble in cook­ies and pas­tries. It has a num­ber of prop­er­ties that are suit­able for these appli­ca­tions. Again, it is the com­bi­na­tion of good sweet­ness and bulk char­ac­ter­is­tics that is the suc­cess fac­tor in baked goods.

Maltitol also has good humec­tant prop­er­ties, which is impor­tant when it comes to pas­tries where you want to keep mois­ture con­tained and main­tain the right lev­el of juici­ness. Even in bis­cuits, malti­tol does­n’t make a fool of itself, offer­ing just the right crispy texture.

But some­thing malti­tol does not offer is the Maillard reac­tion. This means, among oth­er things, that you are miss­ing out on that nice brown shade that we appre­ci­ate in pastries.

The ques­tion is whether you can com­bine malti­tol with anoth­er ingre­di­ent to achiev­ing the Maillard reac­tion. One solu­tion could be to com­bine malti­tol with poly­dex­trose.


It is pos­si­ble to com­bine sug­ar with malti­tol if malti­tol also stands for oth­er func­tions in the food in addi­tion to adding sweet­ness. The start­ing point for using malti­tol is that the calo­rie reduc­tion should be at least 30 per cent, regard­less of whether malti­tol is used alone or in com­bi­na­tion with oth­er sugars.

High sweet­ness is not all when it comes to sug­ar reduc­tion. But in cas­es where high sweet­ness is impor­tant, malti­tol may need the help of a high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er to ensure high sweet­ness – but also to favour a decent calo­rie reduction.

What does Srdjan say?

We turn to Srdjan Solaja, food engi­neer and an expert in sug­ar reduction.

What is important to be aware of when considering maltitol?

– Whatever sug­ar alco­hol you choose, you will always need to take into account the dosage, the lax­a­tive effect, and take care of con­sumers’ ques­tions about why you use it and whether it is safe or not. When it comes to GI, it is impor­tant to note that almost all sug­ar alco­hols raise blood sug­ar to a cer­tain extent and should be con­sumed with cau­tion. Maltitol is cer­tain­ly no exception.

What is it like to work with maltitol?

– Maltitol is avail­able in liq­uid and crys­tal­lized form, mak­ing it a per­fect ingre­di­ent in a vari­ety of appli­ca­tions. In some cas­es, you may need to add a high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er, but not always.

In crys­tal­lized form, malti­tol is very sim­i­lar to sug­ar. Therefore, you do not need to change process­es or obtain addi­tion­al equip­ment to work with it.

Srdjan’s three tips

  • Remember to dose cor­rect­ly, as there are peo­ple with sen­si­tive stomachs
  • Suitable for bak­ing as malti­tol – unlike many oth­er sweet­en­ers – pro­vides the right sta­bil­i­ty and is heat resistant
  • Reminds a lot of sug­ar and can replace sug­ar com­plete­ly in some appli­ca­tions – but not always!

A helping hand

If you want help reduc­ing sug­ar in your prod­uct, we can help you. Do not hes­i­tate to con­tact us.

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