The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Polyols (Sugar Alcohols): Sugar Substitutes Mostly Corn-Derived except Lactitol

Posted on October 08, 2012 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director

An online reader asked us if maltitol was a vegan ingredient. Maltitol is one of many polyols (sugar alcohols) used as sugar substitutes. Sugar alcohols are common in confections and baked goods. They are also widely used in the pharmaceutical industry. The VRG reported on another common polyol, glycerol, in September 2012:

Here is a list of some common polyols (other than glycerol) found in food:

  • Erythritol
  • Isomalt
  • Lactitol
  • Maltitol
  • Mannitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

In July and August 2012, The VRG contacted several companies which manufacture polyols. The unanimous opinion was that they are all vegetable-derived. The notable exception is lactitol which is derived from cow’s milk.

A marketing department representative from Ingredion, (formerly Corn Products International, Inc.), a manufacturer of several polyols, told us that they use corn. Cargill told us: “Besides the isomalt which is only produced in Germany from sugar, the rest of the polyols in the United States are produced from corn. Erythritol can be produced from other carbohydrate sources (i.e. sugar), but currently is only produced from corn.” A sales representative from Danisco stated that xylitol may be a by-product of the paper industry, coming from hardwood trees.

A general manager at Mitsubishi Shoji Foodtech Co., Ltd. based in Japan told us by email that “all of the [following] polyols are of non-animal/vegetable origin:
maltitol, sorbitol: from corn or cassava starch; erythritol, mannitol: from sugar; xylitol: from xylose or corn cob.”

A document that we received in August 2012 from a Customer Care Assistant from DuPont Danisco, one of only a few manufacturers of lactitol, stated that they use lactose from cow’s milk to manufacture lactitol. Another employee of the company told The VRG that lactitol “…is becoming very common in oral health products, and in the food industry…there is a growing demand for it.”

A polyol specialist at Cargill told us in July 2012 when we asked if cow bone char filters were ever used in polyol processing: “I am not aware of bone char being used. Decolorization is normally done via activated carbon and ion exchange resin.”

The contents of this article, our website, and our other publications, including The Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company employees or company statements.Information does change and mistakes are always possible. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. Further research or confirmation may be warranted.

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4 to “Polyols (Sugar Alcohols): Sugar Substitutes Mostly Corn-Derived except Lactitol”

  1. Thank you for such an interesting article. This was information I was not aware of either. For other articles and tips go to

  2. melanie says:

    Good article, thank you. I really appreciated knowing about lactitol. Why on earth would that be growing in demand, and what can be done about it? And why in oral products? Is that mouthwash and toothpaste both, I would assume.
    I really appreciate that the researcher asked about the Bone Char issue. That is an important concern regarding sugars. Thank you.

  3. Shamim says:

    Hi my question is are all maltitol plant based or can maltitol be animal based thanks

  4. Cami says:

    Thank you for this list and information.
    I am allergic to corn and had my suspicions about erythritol after trying it a couple of times and having issues with it. I already knew about malitol and sorbitol, have avoided them for years. Big corn money runs the industry in the US.
    Guess I’m pretty much sol when it comes to polyols… will stick with stevia, sugar, honey and molasses.
    Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

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