E420 Sorbitol







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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 during storage.

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.