“Sugar-free” candies: beware the yumminess

Image credit: Screenshot from Amazon. Blue arrows added by me for emphasis.(Screenshot originally from Amazon, found at Ethan Siegel’s post “Weekend Diversion: The Last Detox Diet You’ll Ever Try!”  on his blog Starts With a Bang on Science Blogs. )

    “Sugar free” candies are great, in moderation, for those of us who can’t eat real candy without getting severe blood sugar highs and lows. One of my favorite weekend routines is to go to the local candy store with my son, who fortunately does not have my blood sugar problems.  (We don’t allow him many sweets, but we do let him have treats here and there.) I get him three white chocolate nonpareils, and I get myself three pieces of sugar-free almond butter crunch, and we sit and eat them outside on a park bench, and we are happy.  And then I have bad gas for the rest of the day, and my family isn’t quite so happy.  But for me, those few minutes of being able to enjoy candy with my son are worth it.   Eating too much sugar-free candy can do more harm than just causing gas, though.  If you can stomach it, read these v. funny customer reviews on Amazon of sugar-free gummy bears to see what I’m talking about.
      Esther Inglis-Arkell also has a good piece on What Turned Sugar-Free Candies Into Super-Laxatives over at io9.com. She talks about what kind of sweeteners are used in the candies and why they affect people the way they do. Here’s her advice:
The main problem seems to be that, when they pick up a product that’s sugar free, most people think, “Oh great, I can eat more,” when what they need to be thinking is, “I have to eat less.” The maximum noneffective dose for maltitol is 0.3 grams per kilogram. The fifty-percent effective dose, or the dose at which fifty percent of people are affected, is 0.8 grams/kilogram. About 25 grams of maltitol is a laxative for children. Forty grams is a laxative for adults. So think of fifteen gummy bears as a decent dose.
     Moderation, moderation, moderation, moderation…. 

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