WHAT DOES THE 'SUGAR ALCOHOL LOOPHOLE' MEAN FOR OUR MACRO TRACKING AT FAT LOSS GOALS?
Sugar alcohols (also termed non-nutritive sweeteners) can be used in foods to enhances flavor without the need for them to contribute to the total carbohydrate content on food labels because they can't be technically categorised as a carbohydrate. Thanks to a cheeky food labeling loophole. However, they do need to be included on the ingredients list, and their energy (Calorie) content does contribute to the Calorie amounts listed on food labels. On the ingredients list, they're often identifiable through words that end in 'ol', such as mannitol, or erythritol.
The cool thing about sugar alcohols is that they can enhance taste for fewer Calories (on average), than straight carbs or sugar, but they're not Calorie-free. They do still contain Calories, ranging from basically nil, to 4.3 kcal per gram. So on average, we'll call it 2 kcal per gram.
So what does this mean for your OCD level My Fitness Pal tracking?
Basically, all it means is that the label might be confusing because the total reported protein, carbs and fat content won't match the reported total energy (Calorie) content listed on the label.
For example, using macros to equate Calories a portion of food with 10g protein, 2g fat and 10g carb would be equated via the following calculation.
Protein: 10g x 4 = 40 kcal
Fat: 2g x9 = 18 kcal
Carbohydrates: 10g x 4 = 40 kcal
Total Calorie content = 98 kcal
However, if some of the carbs on the above portion of food were swapped for sugar alcohols the label might report 98 kcal, but the equation of Calories using the macros might not equal 98 kcal because of the fact the reported carbohydrate content will be much lower than 10g allowing the food to be marketed as 'low carb'.
But that doesn’t really matter because the Calories are accurately labeled.
The total Calories of the food reported on the label still need to take into Calories coming from sugar alcohols. So the thing that actually matters will still be accurately represented on the label. It might just leave your reported, tracked or perceived ratio and amounts of carbs a little off compared to the actual amount of carbohydrates consumed.
Given the above, should you be worried if your diet isn't low carb anymore?
Carbs will not stop you from losing weight and you don’t need to go low carb to lose weight either. After protein and Calories are matched the ratio and amounts of carbs to fat within your diet becomes a non-factor. What matters is whether you're in an energy (Calorie) deficit or not.
Should we avoid sugar alcohols?
Considering you can still accurately report Calories and the fact there aren’t any indications that sugar alcohols are bad for human consumption they’re fine to consume. But in a practical sense they can only be consumed to a certain point because...
Sugar alcohols 'smash your guts'.
While individual tolerances and the effects of individual sugar alcohols in ‘gut upset’ related symptoms vary. Any above norm/high-ish level of sugar alcohol consumption can and will almost certainly 'get things moving'. This is why 'may cause laxative effect' needs to be reported on the food label.
But up to that point, the only potential negative of consuming them in logical amounts is that you might be eating more carbs than you think and your My Fitness Pal carb intake indications might be under reality. But as mentioned, and explained IT DOESNT MATTER.
Sugar alcohols are almost certainly never the deciding factor of whether you're able to create a Calorie deficit & achieve weight loss. As always focus your attention on nailing the basic's, the factors of the greatest magnitude, and impact towards results before you worry about the little things that don't really matter. Big rocks, before pebbles folks!