Sugar Free Hershey's Chocolate
Too good to be true? It is.
Reviewed By: Marc Bollinger
All opinions stated below are that of the reviewer. Please understand that individual results may vary, and to only use the following as precautionary and for informational purposes only.
As a type I diabetic, I'm constantly browsing the market for alternative solutions to my "no sugar" diet. A few weeks ago, I viewed an advertisement from Hershey's Chocolates claiming that they now produce sugar-free versions of their famous Hershey Bars and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. After days of searching the local markets, I finally came across these new developments from Hershey, Pennsylvania. As every diabetic does, or should do, I read the back of the package thoroughly to confirm their claim of no sugar chocolate. The back of the package, which contains the ADA approved logo, provided me with a detailed description of a fairly new substitute called "Lactitol." The explanation on the package explained how lactitol is metabolized at a much slower rate than sugar, as well as, reducing the calories from 4 calories per gram to 2 calories per gram. The package also provides you with exchange rates for carbohydrates and fat intake. Finally, a small warning is presented in a non-obvious place on the package, stating that "Excessive consumption may cause a laxative effect." This is where the deception begins.
After tearing into the bag, I realized how good these chocolates are. I was parading around the room bragging to everyone how these tasted just like normal chocolate. Finally, diabetic's world wide can enjoy "sugar-free" chocolate like the rest of people worldwide, or so it seems. The following morning, after downing about three or four little candies, I awoke with extreme cramps, along with extreme diarrhea. At first, I tried to associate it with the big bowl of chili I ate the previous day, so didn't think anything of it. I continued to snack on the chocolates throughout the day, and soon realized that another problem arose. An embarrassing amount of flatulence took over my life that day. I began to think that maybe the chocolates were the root cause of all these intestinal problems. Hours of research later, I was able to conclude that my hypothesis was correct. Now, I'd like to get into the boring scientific part about what Lactitol is, what it is used for, and how it's probably one of the worst choices Hershey's ever made.
What is Lactitol?
Lactitol, a polyol (sugar alcohol), is currently used as a bulk sweetener in calorie-controlled foods. Discovered in 1920, it was first used in foods in the 1980's. Lactitol has a clean sweet taste that closely resembles the taste profile of sucrose. It has only 40 percent of sucrose's sweetening power. This mild sweetness makes it an ideal bulk sweetener to partner with low-calorie sweeteners, such as acesulfame K, aspartame and saccharin.
Due to its stability, solubility and similar taste to sucrose, lactitol can be used in a variety of low-calorie, low-fat and/or sugar-free foods such as ice cream, chocolate, hard and soft candies, baked goods, sugar reduced preserves, chewing gums and sugar substitutes.
Lactitol is manufactured by reducing the glucose part of the disaccharide lactose. Unlike the metabolism of lactose, lactitol is not hydrolyzed by lactase. It is neither hydrolyzed nor absorbed in the small intestine. Lactitol is metabolized by bacteria in the large intestine, where it is converted into biomass, organic acids, carbon dioxide and a small amount of hydrogen. The organic acids are further metabolized resulting in a caloric contribution of 2 calories per gram (carbohydrates generally have about 4 calories per gram).
What are the Benefits of Lactitol?
Sweet and clean taste: Lactitol has a clean sweet, sugar-like taste with no aftertaste. The relative sweetness of lactitol rises as its concentration in a food is increased. Its mild sweet taste allows other flavors to be clearly perceived. Lactitol is a white crystalline powder, available to food manufacturers as a highly stable dihydrate or monohydrate.
High quality low-calorie foods: ).Lactitol's many attributes as a bulk sweetener with mild sweetness make it a versatile ingredient for high quality low-calorie, low-fat and sugar-free foods. Lactitol is not hygroscopic, meaning it will not absorb moisture into products, will maintain crispness and extend the shelf life of cookies and chewing gum. It also has similar solubility to glucose, is stable in acid and alkaline conditions and remains stable under the high temperatures of food processing. Due to lactitol's mild sweetness profile, it can be paired with low-calorie sweeteners commonly used in today's low-calorie, sugar-free foods (e.g. acesulfame K, aspartame, saccharin.
Low in calories: Lactitol is not metabolized like a carbohydrate (or like sugar) and therefore does not contribute the usual 4 calories per gram. Lactitol is metabolized in the large intestine and yields, according to tests, only 2 calories per gram. The Scientific Committee for Food of the European Union has provided a Nutrition Labeling Directive stating that all sugar alcohols, including lactitol, have a caloric value of 2.4 calories per gram. Canada has assigned a 2.6 caloric value to lactitol.
What are the benefits of Lactitol for diabetics?
As a sweetening ingredient, lactitol does not induce an increase in blood glucose or insulin levels and it contributes half the calories of most other carbohydrates (2 calories per gram). Control of blood glucose, lipids and weight are the three major goals in diabetes management today. Foods using lactitol to replace sugar can be used by people with diabetes, giving them a wider variety of low-calorie and sugar-free choices. However, people should understand that foods sweetened with lactitol contain other ingredients which contribute calories and other nutrients. These must be considered in meal planning.
A note from Marc:
All of this is in fact the truth, however, the amount of information available on side-effects of consuming Lactitol is extremely sparse. I believe that sometimes, people get so incredibly caught up in their marvelous discoveries that they sometimes forget to mention the side-effects people will suffer through in order to enjoy such a revelation. Seeing as Lactitol is broken down by bacteria in the large intestine, the production of gas is inevitable in all people. This is especially dangerous in people who are lactose intolerant, which can lead to many devastating problems. I urge each and every one of you to avoid Lactitol at all costs, unless you would like cramping, diarrhea, and flatulence to become part of your daily life. I also urge you to conduct your own research prior to trying new sugar supplements, as you might be surprised at what information they "forget" to mention on the packages.
Please also view the frequently asked questions found at Hershey's Corporate Website: FAQ's Page
Check out Marc's new website. Diabetic Education. Here you will find alot of good information on diabetes. There is a Glycemic Index, message board, treatment information & stories. Marc's website is a brother website to Ashley's Diabetes Information Center.
Send your Comments to this editorial to be added below to Kimberly Advent
My wife and I had the same reaction to Lactitol that
was described by Marc on your site...nasty stuff that.
We complained to Hershey's and the FDA. Hershey sent
a check for $25 and some coupons. The FDA was a black
Paul - 3-21-04
I am almost never inspired to write a response to something I read on the
Internet but tonight is definitely different. This is regarding the article
by Marc Bollinger on the Sugar Free Hershey's Chocolate. I ate half a bag
of the Reese's cups one day in a desperate moment. The next 24 hours were
absolutely miserable for me with the same symptoms that Marc describes,
especially the flatulence. It was a terrible experience and definitely NOT
worth the momentary glee of finding sugar free, low carb chocolates that
were remotely edible. I can also confirm that there is a surprising paucity
of information about lactitol's side effects - something which we should
change if at all possible.
Well, just a note of thanks and appreciation to find something in print
describing experiences similar to mine, even though there is almost no
literature on the matter available to the public.
I just want to THANK YOU Mark Bollinger, for your article about lactitol. I was beginning to think maybe I had contracted a rare disease. I am gradually eating more carbs these days, after having been on a low carb diet. I decided to allow myself some ice cream, and ate some Mayfield's low carb ice cream last night. Gee, it was so good, and it had so few carbs ... I decided to let myself have two bowls.
Then today, since about 5 a.m. through noon, I've had the worst case of flatulence ever in my whole life! I began to suspect the ice cream, since the first time I had some (only a few spoonfuls) I also had some "mild" gas the next day. I looked at the label, and it proudly proclaims that it is sweetened with Splenda. I have been doing internet research and could find no correlation between Splenda and gas. However, I kept finding articals about Sorbitol. This ice cream does not have that, but the SECOND ingredient listed is lactitol. When I tried searching for lactitol and flatulence, I found your article.
I feel so relieved (pun intended) because this is not a common problem with me, and I was worried by the strong symptoms! It was important for me to find the "cause." Now, as my physical discomfort gradually subsides, my psyche is also restored, because at least I know what to avoid. I plan to write Mayfield too.
Thank you for your article.
Sadly, I too had unpleasant side effects -- so disappointing considering how good the flavor and texture are of the sugar-free Reese’s. Has anyone had any luck combating side effects with another OTC item like “Beano?” I guess that’s desperation speaking.
Concerning your article on Hershey's Chocolate candy "sugar free" with Lactitol. I consider myself to have a high tolerance for anything with sugar. Hours after eating 4 of these seemingly innocent looking candies in the morning I realized I was no match for the powers enthroned to Lactitol. The remaining 12 hours were a near comical repetition of gas and diarrhea. I will never purchase these again, and am in complete disbelief that these were allowed by FDA. The warning on the back states "individuals sensitive to sugar substitues may experience a laxative effect". The statement should in all fairness say "all people will have an adverse reaction". Why a company as goliath and well respected as Hershey's would even send one bag of these candies to the shelves is totally beyond comprehension.
I just got home from the local ER! My husband, a kidney transplant patient, had eaten just 2 Sugar Free Hershey's chocolate candies with almonds and had a horrible reaction.
Within 10 minutes of eating the candy, he felt an extreme wave of heat, nausea, dizziness, could not catch his breath, and felt as if every bit of energy had been drained from his body. The nurse at his work, took his blood pressure and pulse, everything was normal. Then she took his blood sugar. It was 219. He has never had a problem with blood sugar before. By the time we got to the ER, he was over the dizziness but was still short of breath, weak, and had developed a severe headache, along with dry itchy eyes.
After all of the tests had been run everything came back normal! The only thing different in my husband's day was the Hershey's sugar free candy. The ER Doc said this is a common reaction to some sugar substitutes.
I have been looking for information on Lactitol on the net, but the most info has come from site. Thanks for the info you have posted and feel free to share our experiences.
On the subject of sugar-free chocolate and lactilol:
One person asked if an enzyme product like Beano would help with the excessive
gas / flatulence problem stemming from lactilol. Yes, it certainly does work
with beans & legumes! I am wondering if lactose-intolerance products such as
Lact-Aid would be of more assistance against the aftereffects of lactilol?
Can you address this and answer it?
By the way, I don't seem to have the same problem with other sugar-free
products such as diet colas (sweetner not based on sugar alcohol) or hard
candies...just the sugar-free chocolate products such as Whitman's or
Hershey's. Are sorbitol and mannitol "OK", but lactilol the bad guy? Or are
they also implicated?
Let me chime in my two cents here. Marc, if you think you had a bad experience after eating 4 sugar free reeses peanut butter cups, imagine the hell I've been through after eating a bag of them. I had a small dinner and had been craving chocolate all day so after convincing myself that they were the healthy way to deal with my chocolate craving, I bought a small bag of them. One serving is 170 cals, so I figured since my dinner was only about 180 cals, 340 cals of chocolate wouldn't be so bad. Yes, they tasted good but as we have all read, there is a catch . . . about 2 hours after eating them the worst cramping and diarehha and gas of my life followed, literally to the point of being doubled over and crying. My stomach was so distended i looked 8 months pregnant. What I want to impart is that I read the warning and thought, well I have a really strong stomach so this wont bother me. Well apparently this lacitol is above no one. Trust me, I am someone who can eat ANYTHING and not get an upset stomach. I can drink a diet coke while laying in bed and still fall asleep and this really messed with me. Whomever is even considering playing with this fire, don't! Don't try taking beano or lactaid or whatever, I promise you it's not worth it!!!!!!!!!!
All the information you obtain on this site is at your own risk.
I am not a doctor, nurse or nutritionalist.
I am a parent of a diabetic who has obtained all this information on my own.
I will not be held accountable for any problems incurred with the information from this site.
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