Sugar Alcohols: Sorbitol

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol with two thirds the calories of sugar, and 60% of sugar's sweetness. It like many sugar alcohols is not fully absorbed in the digestive process, keeping insulin levels lower then sugar would. It also does not promote tooth decay.

Sorbitol is used as a bulk sweetener, it is often used for the texture or taste it can add to food products. It has been used in a variety of products reduced in calories, sugar, or fat. Sorbital has been used for almost half a century already, it occurs naturally in a wide variety of fruits and berries.

Sorbitol has been declared as GRAS for food product use by the FDA and is approved for use by the European Union and others, including Australia, Canada and Japan. Sorbitol has many other uses apparently, in addition to food products it can be used in medications such as the following.

SORBITOL ORAL - This medication is used as a laxative to treat occasional episodes of constipation.
3% Sorbitol Urologic Irrigating Solution- indicated for use as a urological irrigating fluid with endoscopic instruments during trans urethral procedures requiring distension, irrigation, and lavage of the urinary bladder. It may be used for lavage of an indwelling catheter to maintain patency.

However Sorbitol has some serious down sides and dangers. It has been linked to or believed to be linked to all of, and not limited to, the following.

  • dehydration
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • diarrhea
  • rectal bleeding
  • vomiting
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • persistent urge to empty the bowel
  • flatulence

sorbitol in quantities as low as 10g per day causes diarrhea - brought on by the so-called osmotic purge happening in the gut.

Sorbitol is a polyalcohol sugar and is neither digested nor absorbed by the small intestine. It passes through to the colon where it drives an osmotic purge (2). This means it passes through the lining of the intestine causing fluids (mostly water) to pass through in the opposite direction via osmosis. Bowel motions become watery and lead to dehydration and over time, other consequences like malabsorption of nutrients.


Sorbitol may even be hazardous to diabetics, child development, and may even cause fetal damage in pregnant woman.

It is important to remember that Sorbitol is a NATURAL substance our body uses every day. How ever introducing anything, no matter how beneficial, in large and unnatural amounts is dangerous. It just so happens that sugar alcohols occur in extremely small amounts naturally and increasing them threw artificial means, can be dangerous. This is not to say never use it, I am just trying to say maybe it's better to solve the sweet tooth with natural fruit then with a sugar free cake.

Links: reference