These are sugar alcohols called polyols such as sorbitol, maltilol, xylitol, isomalt and mannitol. They are referred to as nutritive sweeteners because they do provide dietary energy although they have significantly less calories and less effect on blood glucose than sucrose. These products are often added to a variety of foods such as biscuits, chocolate and sweets and are safe to eat in moderation but may have a laxative effect and cause bloating or flatulence.
Sorbitol is often used in mints and sugar free chewing gum. Maltilol is used especially in the production of sugarless hard-boiled sweets and chocolates. Xylitol was first derived from birch trees in Finland and now widely used not only in that country but also across Europe as a sugar substitute.
For example virtually all the chewing gum sold in Finland is sweetened with xyletol. Isomalt is another sugar substitute with a smaller impact on blood glucose levels than sucrose. Like other polyols, they are resistant to metabolism by oral bacteria and do not increase the acidity of the mouth after ingestion. This means that they will not lead to cavities or promote tooth decay. Isomalt is found in Diabetisweet, a sugar substitute used in baking. It is a blend of isomalt and an artificial sweetener which gives it a bitter aftertaste and it also lacks the caramelizing properties of sugar.
Finally mannitol is another sugar alcohol found abundantly in nature and is used as a sweetener particularly for people with diabetes. It has the special quality of being able to produce a cooling effect, which contributes to a fresh feel. The pleasant taste of mannitol makes it popular for use in breath freshening sweets.