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The Gassy Truth of Low Calorie Sweeteners like Maltitol & Sorbitol!

Consumers are increasingly aware of the issues associated with a high sugar diet. As a result we are looking for lower sugar products. Two ingredients that we are seeing much more of are the sweeteners, sorbitol and maltitol, (commonly known as sugar alcohols). They are favourites of food developers who are hoping to maintain taste while reducing sugar content in everything from cookies, snacks to protein bars. The thing that makes sugar alcohols like sorbitol and maltitol great is that they are sweet tasting while also low calorie. HOWEVER, they are low calorie because the body cannot absorb them. They pass through the body unabsorbed. Unfortunately, on their way out they can cause abdominal pain, gas, bloating and osmotic diarrhea.

These side effects can be seen even at low doses which has lead the FDA to require some sorbitol and maltitol-containing products to bear a label alerting consumers about the potential for gastrointestinal problems.

The labels of these products must state the following: "Excess consumption may have a laxative effect." (See Think Thin wrappers, Pure Protein Bars and Atkins Sugar-Free bars).

In fact, they can be so effective as a laxative that they may be used to treat constipation!

So the next time that you eat a “no sugar” protein bar and have an upset stomach, read the ingredient list. Look for “sorbitol” and “maltitol”.

Complementary Research:

In 2008 a study posted in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology experimented the metabolic effect of matitol ingestion within a range of doses on 27 healthy volenteers. The research showed that 22 out of the 27 participants experienced osmotic diarrhea from maltitol intake.

* Oku T, Hongo R, Nakamura S. Suppressive effect of cellulose on osmotic diarrhea caused by matitol in healthy female subject. Journal of nutritional science and vitaminiology 2008:54(4):309-314.