What sweetener is in sugar Free Life Savers?

Life Savers are a classic American hard candy that have been around since 1912. The original Life Savers were made with sugar as the main sweetener. However, in recent decades, alternative sugar-free versions of Life Savers have been introduced to appeal to people who want to reduce their sugar intake.

The Sweetener Used in Sugar Free Life Savers

The primary sweetener used in sugar free Life Savers is maltitol. Maltitol is a sugar alcohol (polyol) that is used as a sugar substitute in many sugar-free and reduced sugar foods and beverages. It has a similar sweetness as sucrose (regular table sugar) but with fewer calories and carbohydrates.

Maltitol is commonly derived from maltose, which is obtained from starch. The maltose is hydrogenated to convert it into maltitol. It has a very similar taste, texture, and look to sucrose, making it an effective sweetener substitute in products like sugar free candies.

Compared to regular sugar, maltitol has these attributes:

  • Fewer calories – Maltitol has 2.1 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram in sugar.
  • Lower glycemic impact – It has a glycemic index of 35 compared to 65 for sugar.
  • Does not promote tooth decay – Bacteria in the mouth do not metabolize it easily.
  • Has a similar sweetness – Maltitol has about 90% of the sweetness of regular table sugar.

These properties make maltitol an attractive sweetener for companies producing sugar free food products. It allows them to maintain a sweet taste without all the calories and dental health drawbacks of regular sugar.

Benefits of Using Maltitol in Sugar Free Life Savers

There are several key benefits maltitol provides when used as the sweetener in sugar free Life Savers:

  • Lower calorie count – Using maltitol instead of sugar significantly reduces the calories. A regular Life Saver has about 20 calories whereas a sugar free Life Saver with maltitol has about 2.5 calories.
  • Reduced glycemic response – For people with diabetes or those limiting sugar for other health reasons, maltitol is a better choice since it does not spike blood sugar as much as regular sugar.
  • Prevents tooth decay – Bacteria in the mouth do not break down maltitol easily, so it does not promote cavities like regular sugar candy.
  • Similar sweet taste – Maltitol closely mimics the sweetness profile and taste experience of sucrose, allowing for an enjoyable candy eating experience.
  • Cost effective – Maltitol is an affordable sweetener alternative compared to other sugar substitutes on the market.

The combination of these benefits makes maltitol a smart choice for sweetening sugar free Life Savers. It meets the criteria of reducing sugar and calories for health-conscious consumers while still providing the familiar sweet candy taste people expect from Life Savers.

Is Maltitol Safe to Consume?

For most people, maltitol is considered safe to consume in moderation as a sugar substitute. However, there are a few considerations regarding its consumption:

  • Gastrointestinal effects – If eaten in large amounts, maltitol can cause gastrointestinal side effects like gas, bloating, and diarrhea. This is due to its incompletely absorbed nature.
  • Not recommended for diabetes management – While less impactful than sugar, maltitol can still elicit a rise in blood glucose and insulin. So diabetics should not solely rely on it.
  • Allergy concerns – Those with corn allergies should avoid maltitol-containing products, since it is derived from corn starch.
  • Toxicity to dogs – Significant maltitol consumption can be dangerous for dogs, so candy sweetened with it should be kept away from pets.

Overall, for most people, consuming maltitol from sugar free Life Savers is not a health risk. However, moderation is key, since overdoing it can lead to some abdominal discomfort. Those sensitive to its laxative effects may want to limit themselves to 1-2 pieces of maltitol-sweetened candy at a time.

Other Facts About Maltitol

Here are some other interesting facts to know about maltitol:

  • It has been used as a sweetener since the 1960s.
  • Europe approved its use in foods in the 1980s.
  • The FDA approved maltitol as a direct food additive in 1987.
  • It has a glycemic index of 35 compared to table sugar’s 65.
  • About 20% of maltitol consumed is absorbed into the blood stream.
  • Common brand names for it include SweetPearl and Maltisweet.
  • It comprises about 16% of the sweetener market.
  • China is the top worldwide producer of maltitol.

Maltitol continues to grow in popularity and usage as a sugar substitute. Its ability to mimic certain attributes of regular sugar make it a versatile sweetener for sugar free candies, baked goods, ice creams, and chocolates.

Comparison to Other Popular Sugar Substitutes

How does maltitol stack up against some other common sugar substitutes used in sugar free foods?

Sweetener Calories/Gram Glycemic Index Sweetness vs Sugar
Maltitol 2.1 35 90%
Xylitol 2.4 7 100%
Erythritol 0.2 0 70%
Stevia 0 0 200-350%
Aspartame 4 0 180-200%
Sucralose 0 0 600%

As you can see, maltitol is moderately low in calories and glycemic impact compared to regular sugar. Its sweetness is similar to table sugar. In comparison, options like stevia and sucralose are much sweeter, while erythritol has very low calories and glycemic impact. Xylitol is also a good choice with low glycemic impact.

The Manufacturing Process

Maltitol is made through a multi-step hydrogenation process that converts the sugar maltose into maltitol. Here is a simplified overview of how maltitol is manufactured on an industrial scale:

  1. Maltose syrup is derived from starch (usually corn starch). The starch undergoes an enzymatic process using beta-amylase enzymes to break it down into maltose.
  2. The maltose syrup is then purified through demineralization, decolorization, and ion exchange processes.
  3. Next, the purified maltose undergoes hydrogenation in a catalytic converter. This converts the maltose sugar into maltitol.
  4. The mixture is filtered and separated to isolate the crystalline maltitol product.
  5. Finally, the maltitol crystals are dried, milled, and packaged to make the finished sweetener product.

Manufacturers can also customize properties like crystal size through additional refining of the maltitol syrup. Larger maltitol crystals are useful in giving a creamy, smooth texture to sugar free candies.

Cooking and Baking Substitutions

In recipes calling for regular white sugar, maltitol can often be substituted in a 1:1 ratio. However, keep these tips in mind when swapping it into recipes:

  • Adjust for sweetness – Since maltitol is less sweet than sugar, you may need to increase the amount or complement with another non-caloric sweetener like stevia.
  • Watch added liquids – Maltitol retains moisture better than sugar in baked goods, so reduce liquids slightly.
  • Expect a cooling effect – Maltitol crystallization causes a cooling mouthfeel.
  • Reduce oven temperature – Items made with maltitol tend to brown faster, so lower oven temp by 25°F.
  • Allow time to dissolve – Maltitol dissolves more slowly compared to regular sugar.

With some tweaking and testing, maltitol can work well as a substitute in sugar free recipes ranging from hard candies to cakes and cookies.

Cost and Pricing

On average, maltitol costs approximately $0.70-0.90 per pound when purchased in bulk quantities. This is comparable in price to regular granulated cane sugar. However, maltitol is often found in smaller packages targeted towards consumers. In this case, it typically costs around $1-3 per 8 oz package.

Compared to other sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol, maltitol is one of the more economical options. Stevia and sucralose, though incredibly sweet, are typically much more expensive once bulk density and sweetness equivalency are factored in.

For companies using maltitol in sugar free products, it provides a cost effective way to replace sugar and lower calories compared to formulations using straight sucrose. The final retail prices of products sweetened with maltitol are largely dependent on the brand, specific product, package size, and geographic market.

Should You Consume Sugar Free Life Savers?

Sugar free Life Savers sweetened with maltitol can be a good option for those looking to reduce their sugar intake. Some pros of eating them include:

  • Enjoyable taste and texture
  • Nostalgic brand recognition
  • 90% fewer calories than regular Life Savers
  • Significantly less carbohydrates and glycemic impact
  • Does not promote tooth decay
  • Gluten-free and vegetarian

Potential downsides to be aware of:

  • Gastrointestinal discomfort if consumed excessively
  • Spikes blood sugar slightly so not ideal for diabetics
  • Not recommended for dogs due to toxicity
  • Some ingredients like artificial colors may be undesirable to certain consumers

Overall, sugar free Life Savers can be a tasty candy choice for those limiting sugar and looking for lower calorie options. As with any food, moderating your serving size is key. For most people, enjoying sugar free Life Savers as an occasional treat is perfectly fine when eaten in sensible amounts.


In sugar free Life Savers, maltitol provides the bulk of the sweetness customers desire. Thanks to its sugar-like taste, texture, and reduced calorie content, it serves as an effective sweetener substitute for the classic candy. While consuming high amounts can cause some GI upset, maltitol poses no major health risks for most people and can be part of a balanced diet.

When choosing sugar free candy options, be sure to look at the overall ingredients, nutrition facts, and added sugar alcohols. Enjoy treats like sugar free Life Savers in moderation as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Diabetics and those highly sensitive to sugar alcohols should exercise particular caution and discuss options with their doctor.

With some careful attention to serving sizes and listening to your own body’s responses, products featuring sugar replacements like maltitol offer an appealing way to cut back on sugar without sacrificing flavor and enjoyment.

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