What is maltitol?

Maltitol is a low-calorie artificial sweetener. It is a carbohydrate, a sugar alcohol made of glucose and sorbitol [1]. It is produced from maltose, which is derived from the natural starch (wheat, tapioca or corn), by using enzymes alpha- and beta-amylase and pullulanaze [1,2-p.224].

Maltitol Formula

Maltilol structure

Picture 1. Maltitol structure

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories per gram = 2.1
  • Glycemic index (GI) = 45
  • Sweetness, relative to sucrose = 75%
  • Net carbs = zero

Food Products with Maltitol

Maltitol is used as a low-calorie sweetener, humectant, thickening agent and texturizer in candies, chocolates, baked goods, ice creams, chewing gums and pan-coated tablets [2-pp 244-246;3]. In the European Union maltitol is labeled as E number E965 [4].

Maltitol Digestion and Metabolism

Maltitol is not digested and absorbed in the small intestine so it travel to the large intestine where beneficial intestinal bacteria break it (ferment) into gases and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which may be beneficial for the colonic lining. Maltitol can provide 2.1 kilocalories per gram [2-p.233].

Possible Maltitol Benefits

Tooth decay. Maltitol does not promote dental caries [2-p.234;3,8].

Diabetes mellitus. Maltitol has a low glycemic index (GI = 45) [2-p.9], which means it does not significantly raise blood glucose and insulin levels [3,8].

There appears to be no scientific evidence about the weight loss promoting effect of maltitol.

Maltitol Safety

Maltitol as a food additive is safe to use, according to The Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) [3,5]. A petition to affirm the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status of maltitol has been accepted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [3], which means maltitol as a food additive is allowed to be used in the U.S.. Maltitol is also allowed in the European Union, Canada and Japan [2-p.247;3].

There is no evidence about cancer promoting effect (carcinogenity) of maltitol or maltitol syrup (polyglycitol) [7]. There appears to be no evidence about maltitol toxicity.

During Pregnancy

In animal (rat) studies, maltitol was not toxic for the fetus [9]. There is lack of human studies about maltitol safety in humans but there also appear to be no evidence of its toxicity for the fetus.

Tolerance, Side Effects, Dangers

Maltitol attracts water from the intestinal wall (osmotic effect) so it can have a laxative effect. Laxation threshold for maltitol in healthy people is about 30 grams in a single dose or 100 grams per day [2-p.237;3]. Maltitol in doses at least 15 g/day is well tolerated by children [6]. Maltitol, when consumed in excess, can cause problems, such as abdominal bloating, pain or cramps, excessive gas (flatulence), loose stools or diarrhea.

Maltitol may trigger allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.

Maltitol and Cooking

Physical properties:

  • Powder
  • 75% sweet as sucrosea negligible cooling effect [2-p.59; 10]
  • Low hygroscopicity – does not readily attract moisture from the air until relative humidity reaches about 85% [2-p.230]
  • Solubility in water at 77° F (25° C) is 60 g/100 g solution [2-p.158]
  • Melting point = 291-306° F (144-152° C) [2-p.224]
  • Does not undergo caramelization or the Maillard browning reaction during cooking [2-p.298; 3]
  • Does not decompose at 160° C (320° F) [2-p.158]

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is maltitol vegan?

Yes; it is produced from wheat, tapioca or corn.

2. Is maltitol gluten-free?

Maltitol can be produced from wheat, but it should be gluten-free.

3. What is the difference between maltitol, stevia, sucralose and sucrose?

Maltitol has about 2 kilocalories per gram, stevia and sucralose have no calories and sucrose has about 4 kilocalories per gram.

4. Is maltitol allowed on candida diet?

Maltitol could potentially stimulate the growth of candida yeast, but candida overgrowth in the otherwise healthy individuals has not been proven so far.

5. Is maltitol ketogenic?

No. Maltitol is a carbohydrate, not a lipid, so it does not form ketones.

6. Does maltitol cause acne or rash?

There appears to be no evidence about maltitol as a cause of acne or rash.

7. Does maltitol causes migraine headache?

There appears to be no evidence about maltitol as a specific trigger of migraine.

Related Nutrients

  1. Hamada, S., 2002, Role of sweeteners in the etiology and prevention of dental caries  International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
  2. Mitchell, H., 2006, Sweeteners and Sugar Alternatives in Food Technology
  3. Maltitol  Calorie Control Council
  4. Current EU approved additives and their E Numbers  Food Standards Agency
  5. Maltitol Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  6. Gray, N., 2010, Maltitol has good digestive tolerance: study  Food Navigator
  7. Scientific Opinion on the use of Polyglycitol Syrup as a food additive  European Food Safety Authority
  8. Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to the sugar replacers xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol, isomalt, erythritol, D-tagatose, isomaltulose, sucralose and polydextrose and maintenance of tooth mineralisation by decreasing tooth demineralisation and reduction of post-prandial glycaemic responses  European Food Safety Authority
  9. Canimoqlu, S. et al, 2013, The genotoxic and teratogenic effects of maltitol in rats  PubMed
  10. Sugar Alcohols Fact Sheet Food Insight

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