Reese's Peanut Butter Bluff

Patient Expert

When I got my last haircut, the hair stylist and I talked about our favorite candy. It turned out to be one of the few things we have in common.

For both of us Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are our guilty pleasure. The combination of chocolate and peanuts is irresistible.

Many people share our preference. The Snickers bar is the biggest selling candy bar, and Hershey's Reese's Peanut Butter Cup is number two, according to

I almost completely stopped eating any candy when I took my diabetes seriously- too much sugar.

That's why I was so excited to read in an article in diabetes magazine a few month's ago that there is now a sugar-free version of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. But I looked in vain for it.

Yesterday I finally found my favorite candy in my local drugstore. The first thing I noticed is that the label says it is low glycemic and has 5 grams of fiber.

The second thing I noticed was that somehow one of the cups was in my mouth. It tasted great - every bit as good as the regular sugar-rich version that I remembered from long ago.

The third thing I noticed was the small print. After I got out my magnifying glass, I could read that the first ingredient is maltitol. Food companies have to list the ingredients of their products in descending order by weight, which means that the first ingredient makes up the largest proportion of the food. Maltitol is one of the sugar alcohols, which are touted as sugar replacers that cause only a slight rise in blood glucose levels.

But maltitol has by far the highest glycemic index of any sugar alcohol, about 50. It's really not all that much better than the GI of sugar, which is about 68. An unlike sugar, maltitol has a laxative effect if you eat much of it.

Next, I saw that the nutrition facts panel for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups says that it has no trans fat. But one of its ingredients is "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil."

Since partial hydrogenation is what makes trans fats, I wondered how this could be. Finally, I remembered something that I had read in my favorite health newsletter many months ago. The "UC Berkeley Wellness Letter" stated that the Food and Drug Administration allows products with less than half a gram of trans fat per serving to list trans fat as zero.

"But if you eat several servings," the newsletter continued, "the trans fats add up. No amount is desirable."

This was why I stopped using Benecol, which I had taken to reduce my cholesterol. The plant stanol esters in Benecol reduce the bad LDL cholesterol, but conversely the trans fats raise it. Since I need to reduce my cholesterol and don't need to eat candy, I won't eat any more of the sugar-free Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Where do the candy companies think they're going? Do they think that this is progress?