Sorbitol is a sweetener that is commonly added to industrially produced foods, especially products for people suffering from diabetes, naturally found in some fruits, such as plums, pears, apples.” It is also used in the production of cosmetics. What properties does sorbitol have? Is it safe for health?


Properties and use of sorbitol

Sorbitol belongs to the group of sugar alcohols (polyols), occurs in the form of a white granular powder or flakes, however, it is usually available in the form of a 70% aqueous solution, which is obtained by catalytic hydrogenation of glucose in the presence of nickel.

Sorbitol is naturally present in some fruits, algae and mushrooms, most of which can be found in dried plums (12.7 g / 100 g), pears (2.1 g / 100 g), cherries (1.4 g / 100 g) and peaches (0.9 g / 100 g). Sorbitol has 50-60% sweetness of sucrose and has a pure sweet taste.

When it is consumed, the sensation of coolness in the mouth is felt, often combined in food products with synthetic sweeteners, to mask their bitter aftertaste.

In addition to sweetening properties, food manufacturers use other sorbitol characteristics, and are used as a filler and stabilizer in food products, as well as improving their moisture and texture.

It is hygroscopic, that’s why it allows to keep water inside the product. Sorbitol does not take part in Maillard reactions, i.e. browning reactions occurring at high temperatures, characteristic of bakery products.


As a food additive, sorbitol is designated E-420.

Sorbitol is sweetened by low-calorie products, protein bars, milk desserts, fruit desserts, ice cream, bakery products, cocoa products, sauces, liqueurs and mustards. Sorbitol is not fermented by mouth bacteria, which is why we often find it in chewing gum and toothpaste compositions .

This ingredient is also used very often in cosmetics, in cosmetics it has a thickening and clarifying effect, prevents the drying of preparations and improves their moisturizing properties. Sorbitol is a weak allergen, so it can be used by people with sensitive skin.


How many calories does sorbitol have?

Interestingly, the calorific value of sorbitol can not be determined precisely because its calorific value depends on how much sweetener we consume and to what extent the given organism will absorb sorbitol into the bloodstream.

In the United States, 100 g of sorbitol is estimated to provide 260 kcal, and in the European Union – 240 kcal. That’s a lot less than sugar (400 kcal / 100 g), but sorbitol is half as sweet, so it would be better to use more to get the sweetener strength of sucrose, so we do not save on calories.

Sorbitol is very rarely used in home cooking, and in ready food it is combined with intense sweeteners to lower the calorie content of the product, it is metabolized completely differently than glucose, and its consumption does not cause increased insulin secretion.

For this reason, sorbitol is recommended for people suffering from diabetes and we often find it in the composition of foods for diabetics.



Excess sorbitol can cause bloating and diarrhea

Sorbitol is only partially absorbed in the body after ingestion and this process occurs slowly.A small amount of sorbitol is metabolized similarly to fructose in the liver and can eventually be converted into glucose.

Most go unchanged to the large intestine and fermented there by intestinal bacteria.For this reason, high consumption of sorbitol can cause gas, flatulence, and sometimes intestinal cramps and diarrhea.It should not be used by persons suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.

For some, intestinal symptoms may appear after consumption of 5 g of sorbitol.The most common side effects occur after eating 25-30 g of polyhydric alcohol in a single dose, which exceeds the amounts usually used in ready-made foods.It is worth knowing that the laxative properties of dried plums result from the presence of sorbitol and fiber in them.


Is sorbitol safe for health?

There is no restriction on the use of sorbitol as a food additive: According to the Regulation of the Minister of Health of 22 November 2010 on the permitted additional substances, there is an obligation to put on the packaging information that” in excessive amounts can have a laxative effect”, the content of alcoholic alcohols in the food product exceeds 10%.

Sorbitol should not be given to children under the age of 1 because it can cause acute diarrhea.” There are reports that sorbitol may contribute to the development of diabetic nephropathy, i.e. kidney damage in diabetics and obese people. Kidney damage can occur as a result of osmotic properties of sorbitol and inducing cell “swelling”.



Sorbitol is a substance with a very wide industrial application, exhibiting sweetening properties, and sorbitol is most often found in low-calorie foods intended for people suffering from diabetes, and is also used in the production of toothpastes and other cosmetics.

Sorbitol consumed in larger amounts can cause diarrhea, we should not be afraid of sorbitol in food if we do not eat finished products in excess.

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