Sorbitol, also known as glucitol, is a sugar alcohol, which
the human body metabolizes slowly. It can be obtained by reduction
of glucose, changing the aldehyde group to a hydroxyl group.
Sorbitol is found in apples, pears,
peaches, and prunes.
Sorbitol is used as a humectant in many types of products for
protection against loss of moisture content. The moisture-stabilizing
and textural properties of sorbitol are used in the production
of confectionery, baked goods and chocolate where products tend
to become dry or harden. Its moisture-stabilizing action protects
these products from drying and maintains their initial freshness
Sorbitol is very stable and chemically unreactive. It can withstand
high temperatures and does not participate in Maillard (browning)
reactions. This is an advantage, for example, in the production
of biscuits where a fresh colour with no appearance of browning
is desired. Sorbitol also combines well with other food ingredients
such as sugars, gelling agents, proteins and vegetable fats.
It functions well in many food products such as chewing gums,
sweets, frozen desserts, biscuits, cakes, icings and fillings
as well as oral care products, including toothpaste and mouthwash.
Sorbitol is very similar to glucose, but unlike glucose, it
acts as a laxative by being absorbed very slowly into the blood.
As a consequence of this slow absorption as it passes through
the gut, the sorbitol tends to hold onto some water. This then
increases the moisture content of the stools which leads to
easier passage from the body.
Sorbitol rarely causes negative side effects , however, due
to the effect on the gut, this can cause abdominal discomfort,
flatulence, diarrhoea, a need ‘to go’ and nausea.
Sorbitol containing drugs can also cause diarrhoea.