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Does Glycerin Raise Blood Sugar?

Glycerin may not be a familiar term to most people. But it can be found in a variety of health and beauty products as well as in many foods. One of its many uses is as a sugar substitute. Diabetics who hear that may wonder whether glycerin can be used by them without the problems and blood sugar spikes ordinary sugar gives.

Is glycerin a safe substitute for other sugars? Does it have any benefits or side effects that might occur if it’s consumed? Here’s what glycerin is and how it affects diabetics.

Nutritional Value of (Vegetable) Glycerin

Vegetable glycerin or glycerol is a sugar alcohol or a chemical that resembles a combination of sugar and alcohol (it is actually neither of those substances). It is made from a variety of vegetable fats, like palm oil, soy or vegetable oil, and coconut oil. It’s either made as a byproduct of making other products, such as soaps or when the fats are split in the making of other fatty acids. [1] Glycerin can be synthesized from other compounds or made from animal fat sources, but most glycerin now available is made from vegetable fats.

Glycerin’s most common use is in cosmetics. This is because glycerin is a humectant or an additive that retains moisture. [2] When it is used in foods, it is typically either to help the food retain moisture or to sweeten it. Like other sugar alcohols, glycerin is not a zero-calorie sweetener, but it is lower in calories than table sugar and is considered to be about 60 percent as sweet as most sugars. [3]

Glycerin has no other nutritive properties. It does not contain any other nutrients. Its main value when added to foods is the sweetness it can give them without the calories or GI rating most sugars have.

Does Glycerin Spike My Blood Sugar?

Glycerin, as a sweetener, has a much lower GI score than most carbohydrates. Glycerin’s GI score is only 5. [4] However, unlike many zero-calorie artificial sweeteners, glycerin is not a zero-calorie food, just a reduced-calorie one.

Products containing sugar alcohol, including glycerin, may show a “net carbs” label to indicate the carbohydrates in the food minus any sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols are considered to not be absorbed by the body and thus have no effect on the carbohydrate count. While many sugar alcohols are not fully absorbed by the body, many are at least absorbed partially, and glycerin is one of them. [5] A better recommendation is to halve any given carb count of the sugar alcohols in anything. [6]

Some food manufacturers don’t consider glycerin a sugar at all and do not list it in nutrition labels. If a product claims to be low-sugar or sugar-free, glycerin is required to be listed as a sugar alcohol on the label, but if it doesn’t make any claims like that, it does not need to be listed as such. [7] (Glycerin is usually listed in food labels as glycerol.)

Do sugar alcohols, including glycerin, spike blood sugar? There is some research that indicates that they can, although to a lesser degree than other sugars. [8] On the other hand, some people with type 1 diabetes have reported that consuming sugar alcohol causes spikes in blood sugar. [9]

One unpleasant side effect of most sugar alcohols, including glycerin, can cause blood sugar levels to vary tremendously. Since sugar alcohols cannot be fully digested by the human body, they can ferment in the small intestine. This leads to gas, bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea. [10] Diarrhea can lead to lowered blood sugar because the nutrients from food may not be absorbed during a bout. [11] Some people who routinely consume sugar alcohol say that this effect is lessened as more sugar alcohol is consumed over time.

In summary, most sugar alcohols like glycerin do not have a strong effect on blood sugar. There are some circumstances where they may decrease blood sugar if they cause diarrhea. Finally, some type 1 diabetics have reported that their blood sugar increases if they eat any sugar alcohol at all.

Calories for Glycerin

Glycerin may not have a high GI score at all, but it does contain some calories. The calorie count of glycerin is nothing particularly high – 4.3 calories a gram – but it can still add up over time. [12] So glycerin has more calories than many other sugar substitutes but far less than most sugars.

Because of the laxative effect of glycerin and other sugar alcohols, the calories glycerin has may not be able to stay in the system. While this shouldn’t be counted upon to decrease the total number of calories in any foods containing glycerin, it’s possible that eating foods with significant amounts of glycerin in them may have fewer calories after that is taken into account.

Recommended Intake with Diabetes

The lower GI rating for glycerin makes it seem appealing as a sweetener. Many diabetics may want to consider substituting glycerin for sugar in their favorite sweet foods. If you are interested in this use of glycerin/glycerol, keep the following things in mind.

  • Start by eating only a small amount of food with glycerin. While you might not be one of those people who have extra difficulty in tolerating sugar alcohol, it’s better not to risk it.
  • Remember that glycerin is not a zero-calorie sweetener. It has fewer calories than most sugars but still has calories. Foods containing glycerin should be counted in your overall calorie intake.
  • If you are following a low FODMAP diet, glycerin and other sugar alcohols are on the list of forbidden foods. [13]
  • If you have type 1 diabetes, you may want to avoid any sugar alcohols. They may still increase your blood sugar.
  • Since foods that contain glycerin are usually processed foods and still contain carbs and calories, those foods should be consumed in moderation. Fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and lean protein sources should still make up most of your diet.


Is Glycerol a Sugar?

Glycerol is a form of sugar alcohol made from vegetable fats. It is classified as a sweetener, but it is not considered a sugar.

Does Glycerin Affect the Release of Insulin?

Glycerin has been tested to see if it affects the release of insulin, and it does not appear glycerin on its own can increase or decrease the release of insulin.

Is Glycerin Keto?

Glycerin, despite its low GI index score, is still ultimately considered a form of carbohydrate. Ketogenic diets advise users not to take in more than 10 percent of calories from carbohydrates. So, while glycerin can be consumed on a ketogenic diet, glycerin itself is not keto-friendly.

Final Thoughts

Glycerin, or glycerol, is a compound made from vegetable oils. It is sweet in taste but has a much lower GI score than ordinary sugar. Many diabetics and those looking to watch their sugar intake may want to try glycerin as a substitute.

Glycerin still has calories and some carbohydrates, and some experience digestive upset when they consume glycerin. With all those things in mind, diabetics may want to try glycerin as a sugar substitute. It still should be kept in moderation.


  1. Morrison, L. R. (2000). Glycerol. Kirk‐Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology.
  2. Sethi, A., Kaur, T., Malhotra, S., & Gambhir, M. (2016). Moisturizers: The slippery road. Indian Journal of Dermatology, 61(3), 279.
  3. Ruiz-Ojeda, F. J., Plaza-Díaz, J., Sáez-Lara, M. J., & Gil, A. (2019). Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials. Advances in Nutrition, 10(suppl_1), S31–S48.
  4. FOOD FOR THOUGHT – Glycemic Index. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2023, from
  5. Get to Know Carbs | ADA. (n.d.).
  6. Counting Sugar Alcohols: Diabetes Education Online. (2010).
  7. Freeman, J., & Hayes, C. (2004). “Low-Carbohydrate” Food Facts and Fallacies. Diabetes Spectrum, 17(3), 137–140.
  8. Grembecka, M. (2015). Sugar alcohols—their role in the modern world of sweeteners: a review. European Food Research and Technology, 241(1), 1–14.
  9. Sugar Alcohol – Yale New Haven Hospital. (2019). Sugar Alcohol – Yale New Haven Hospital.
  10. Ruiz-Ojeda, F. J., Plaza-Díaz, J., Sáez-Lara, M. J., & Gil, A. (2019). Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials. Advances in Nutrition, 10(suppl_1), S31–S48.
  11. Diabetes when you’re unwell. (n.d.). Diabetes UK.
  12. Freeman, J., & Hayes, C. (2004). “Low-Carbohydrate” Food Facts and Fallacies. Diabetes Spectrum, 17(3), 137–140.
  13. Jackson, E. (2022, February 24). Top Reasons Sugar Alcohols May Not Be a Good Sugar Substitute. UMMS Health.

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