Is Sorbitol Safe? 7 Side Effects + Uses

Is Sorbitol Safe for Your Health?

Is Sorbitol Safe? 7 Side Effects + Uses

Keep reading for my take on the topic and find out which sweetener may be the best choice for you.

What Is Sorbitol?

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol. xylitol and erythritol, sorbitol is a popular, low-calorie stand-in for refined sugar.

Sorbitol, artificial sweeteners, and refined sugar: what’s the difference? If you’re feeling confused about low-calorie sweeteners, you’re not alone. Check out this post to find out more about sorbitol, whether it’s safe to eat, and if it can fit into a healthy diet.

Sugar alcohols are low-digestible carbohydrates. Because our bodies are able to absorb them to some extent, they don’t usually qualify as calorie-free. That absorption rate varies among xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol.

Almost 80 percent of sorbitol you consume will be absorbed, compared to 50 percent of xylitol. (1) Erythritol has an absorption rate of almost 100 percent, but our bodies can’t digest it.

Because of that, it offers almost no calories. (2)

What You Need to Know about Sugar Alcohols, Sugar, and Artificial Sweeteners

When it comes to sugar alcohol versus sugar, there are some major differences. There is little data suggesting that sugar alcohols present health risks, but many studies have linked the consumption of refined sugar to long-term, negative health issues, including:

  • Weight gain, especially when refined sugar is consumed in liquid form (i.e., sweetened beverages) (3)
  • Reduced immune system efficiency (4, 5)
  • Disorders such as binge eating and even sugar addiction (6)

Artificial sweeteners also carry some potential health risks. These sugar substitutes are often used to satisfy a craving for a sweet taste without adding extra calories. The FDA currently recognizes six artificial sweeteners as safe: (7)

  • Sucralose
  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K)
  • Neotame
  • Advantame
  • Saccharin

There is some evidence that consuming artificial sweeteners such as those could wreak havoc on your gut.

This is because non-caloric artificial sweeteners saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose often pass through the gastrointestinal system without being digested.

That allows them to come in contact with the colon microbiota, potentially upsetting the balance of gut flora which, in turn, can damage gut health.

On the other hand, there’s not much existing data to support concern over sugar alcohols. In fact, few toxicity studies have been conducted on these substances, and researchers generally consider them safe to eat.

(8) In one study, participants shunned other sweeteners in favor of xylitol for two years. While researchers saw some temporary digestive distress in the first few months of the study, the participants didn’t show any other negative effects.


findings such as those, I believe sugar alcohols are a better choice than artificial sweeteners. And because of their low calorie content, they may be preferable to refined sugar as well.

Are Sugar Alcohols Healthy for You to Eat?

Sugar alcohols might actually offer health benefits for certain people. For starters, they don’t have many calories, making them a great choice for anyone trying to lose weight. Also, they each have a low glycemic index, which could be beneficial for those with diabetes.

In general, we don’t see much change in blood glucose or insulin levels when humans eat sugar alcohols. In some animal studies, researchers found that rats fed xylitol actually:

  • Lost weight
  • Improved their glucose tolerance
  • Reduced their blood glucose levels (10, 11, 12)

It’s important to note that these studies looked at xylitol. It will be interesting to see if future research on other sugar alcohols yields similar findings.

If You Have Digestive Issues, Steer Clear

One major drawback to sugar alcohols is their ability to disrupt the gut. Sugar alcohols are also known as “polyols”—the same polyols that make up the “P” in “FODMAP.” That means that anyone following the low-FODMAP diet won’t be able to tolerate sorbitol.

Because our bodies don’t really digest sugar alcohols, these substances can pull extra water into the large bowel and cause diarrhea. The fermentation process that takes place in the gut can also lead to bloating, gas, and poor fat absorption. (13)

Those effects are often worse for people suffering from gut issues, but even healthy people can experience digestive upset in the first few months of eating sugar alcohols. If you’re on the low-FODMAP diet, steer clear of sorbitol.

How to Gauge Your Tolerance for Sugar Alcohols

Tolerance of sugar alcohol varies which substance is consumed. In one study, researchers found that participants could eat around 30 grams of sorbitol daily without experiencing digestive problems, but they had a much harder time incorporating xylitol into their diets without digestive issues. (14) Erythritol may be the easiest sugar alcohol to handle. (15)

If you’ve ever felt digestive upset after eating xylitol, switching to sorbitol or erythritol could solve the problem. If you aren’t sure how well you’ll tolerate a certain sweetener, I encourage you to experiment with different options. However, people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or another GI condition should avoid eating sugar alcohols altogether.

Which Sweetener Is the Best Choice for You?

Because I’m a strong believer in the 80/20 rule, I don’t believe you need to completely eliminate sweeteners from your diet. Even if you’re trying to stick with the Paleo diet, it’s important to understand that improving your health doesn’t mean sacrificing all of the foods that bring you pleasure.

While practicing moderation is key when it comes to sugary substances, including sugar alcohols, there are ways to incorporate sweeteners into a healthy diet.

What to Do If You’re Diabetic

For those who are insulin resistant or diabetic, it’s crucial to avoid concentrated sweeteners as much as possible. That means staying away from refined sugar and artificial sweeteners.

If you fall into this category, testing with a glucometer can help you determine how well you can handle the sugar levels naturally present in whole fruit, a healthy way to satisfy a desire for something sweet. While getting sugar from vitamin-packed, fiber-rich whole fruit is usually the most nutritious choice, foods sweetened with stevia or sugar alcohols are another alternative.

Stevia is a natural sweetener that has shown some therapeutic effects for people with diabetes. (16) And, as I mentioned, sugar alcohols may also offer health benefits.

If You Need to Lose Weight, Follow This Tip

Consuming sugary foods or drinks can lead to overeating and weight gain. That’s why I encourage anyone who is trying to lose weight to stay away from sweetened foods and beverages (including fruit juice and “healthy” juice drinks).

Even low-calorie artificial sweeteners can harm your ability to regulate your appetite. While it’s possible that sugar alcohols may not cause this type of metabolic confusion at the same rate as refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, many people are better off choosing whole fruit (not juice, due to its much higher concentration of fruit sugars) to satisfy their sweet cravings.

If You Have Digestive Issues, Try This Sweetener

As I discussed earlier, sugar alcohols are a potent FODMAP. In fact, people with reflux, IBS, or other digestive conditions will probably have trouble digesting any concentrated sweetener.

Sugar also feeds and sustains certain gut bacteria, which would spell trouble for anyone suffering from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

That’s why bloating and gas often follow sweetener consumption.

If you have existing digestive problems, learn to listen closely to your body to find a sweetener you can tolerate. While it’s ly you won’t be able to handle large quantities of any sweet substance, raw honey may be your best choice. Among other things, this natural sweetener has been shown to:

  • Lower LDL cholesterol (17)
  • Reduce levels of blood glucose (18)
  • Treat some H. pylori infections and reduce inflammation related to irritable bowel disease (IBD) (19)

How to Cut out Your Sugar Cravings

Giving up sugar—or significantly reducing it—is a difficult task for many of us, especially if we get strong cravings for sweet foods. Because cutting back can be such a challenge, it’s generally a good idea to begin by minimizing your current consumption of concentrated sweeteners—even low-calorie options.

As you dial back the sweeteners, try adding more nutritious carbs into your diet. Next time you feel the urge to have a sugary dessert or soft drink, try a piece of whole fruit instead. Also, add these to your plate:

  • Potatoes and other root vegetables
  • White rice
  • Plantains

A few teaspoons of coconut oil can also provide the body with a readily available energy source, which might stymie your desire for sugar.


What is Sorbitol? 4 Ways to Use It to Improve Health

Is Sorbitol Safe? 7 Side Effects + Uses

By: Mia Sims

What is sorbitol? Sorbitol, commonly used as an alternative sweetener, is a natural sugar alcohol in various fruits and vegetables, including apples, blackberries and apricots. Sorbitol, other sugar alcohols, does not contain methanol.

Sugar alcohols look and taste sugar but they contain fewer calories, which may make them a healthy alternative to traditional sweeteners.

Research suggests sugar alcohols may potentially benefit various aspects of health including (x):

  • Blood sugar
  • Digestion
  • Skin care
  • Oral health

Have you been looking for a healthier way to help add flavor to foods and drinks without the negative effects of sugar? Sorbitol may be the right supplement for you. However, there is no evidence that suggests sorbitol can completely cure, treat or prevent any disease or illness. 

What is Sorbitol?

Sorbitol is mostly made from corn syrup. It is 60% sweeter than sugar, but only contains about 60-66% of the calories (x). Sorbitol is present in various fruits and vegetables. You can also find sorbitol in raspberries, avocadoes, peaches, plums and cherries.

Once you ingest sorbitol, it produces an enzyme called sorbitol dehydrogenase. The enzyme then breaks sorbitol into fructose, the simple sugar in fruits and vegetables. That sugar stimulates the liver to produce chemicals that can break it down further into glucose, glycogen, lactate and carbon dioxide (x, x).

When the body produces glucose—which is considered one of the simplest forms of sugar—it breaks down in the body to produce energy. Sorbitol and other sugar alcohols are a class of polyols, which are also sugar alcohols. They make up an element of the diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.

What is Sorbitol Made from?

Sorbitol is mostly made from corn syrup, but it can also come from apples, pears, peaches and prunes. It is created through a pressurized process that breaks down these sugars and fruits. While sorbitol occurs naturally, it can also be created synthetically from glucose (x).

Other types of sugar alcohol include (x):

  • Maltitol syrup
  • Hydrogenated glucose syrup
  • Polyglycitol
  • Polyglycitol or HSH
  • Isomalt
  • Lactitol
  • Maltitol
  • Mannitol
  • Xylitol 

What is Sorbitol Used for?

But how does sorbitol work? And why is it so popular? 

We reached out to Hayley Cimring, BSc (Honours Dietetics) for insight on sorbitol and its effects. Cimring is a registered dietician and nutrition specialist. She writes and researches science-based articles and currently creates and reviews articles for Fitness Savvy. 

Cimring states, “Excessive amounts of added sugar can have harmful effects on your metabolism and overall health. For this reason, many people turn to other sweeteners sugar alcohols and non-nutritive sweeteners.” She also claims that the body does not completely absorb sugar alcohols from the small intestine into the bloodstream regular sugar. Sorbitol in particular may be effective for:

  • Skin care
  • Oral health
  • Diabetes
  • Digestion

However, it is not intended to treat or prevent any medical condition or illness. Always consult a doctor before trying sorbitol or any other supplement.

Blood Sugar Control & Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition in which the body’s blood glucose, or blood sugar, is too high. There are two different types of diabetes: type I and type II.

How exactly does sorbitol affect blood sugar? Actually it has less of an effect than regular sugar.

According to Cimring, sugar alcohols are “popular sweeteners among diabetics and people on low-carb diets” because the body does not completely absorb them into the bloodstream. 

Sorbitol may help manage blood sugar levels and prevent spikes and it may aid in insulin response.

There are no studies that prove sorbitol has significant effects on type I diabetes, but studies have suggested that it may have a significant effect on type II diabetes.

In type II diabetes, the body develops a resistance to insulin and doesn’t absorb the glucose molecules it needs, resulting in a slow increase in blood sugar.

Researchers conducted a study on diabetic rats to evaluate sorbitol’s effect on glucose. They noted that sorbitol may have increased glucose absorption in the gut and the muscles without the presence of insulin. The study suggests that sorbitol may increase glucose absorption and reduce blood sugar levels in diabetic patients (x). Sorbitol may be a significantly safer alternative to sugar.

Constipation & Digestive Health

Studies also suggest that sorbitol may be a significant aid in alleviating constipation and loosening stool.

It participates in osmosis, so it draws water to the large intestine and colon and may help ease stool and promote bowel movements (x, x).

However, you should consult a doctor before using sorbitol as a way to relieve constipation because too much of the supplement may loosen the stool too much and cause diarrhea.

Hydration & Aging in Skin Care

Sorbitol is a humectant, which is a substance that helps absorb and retain moisture in the body. For example, various creams and lotions for the body may contain sorbitol. This may also help with aging. As the body ages, so does the skin.

It loses hydration with age and sorbitol in skin care products may reduce the signs of aging by providing moisture to the skin.

Sorbitol is one of several humectants, including honey, glycerin, panthenol, urea, gelatin, hyaluronic acid, alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid, sodium pyrrolidine, carboxylic acid), propylene glycol and butylene glycol (x).

Oral Health & Preventing Tooth Decay

Sorbitol may also be a safer alternative for the teeth than sugar. Just the digestive system does not break it down, bacteria in the mouth cannot break it down either, which may help prevent tooth decay and other dental issues.

Usually, the bacteria in plaque metabolize the sugar in the body and release acid that then breaks down enamel, gradually reducing the strength of teeth. But since bacteria cannot break down sorbitol and other sugar alcohols, it may slow down tooth decay and help prevent the formation of cavities (x).

There are many types of gum and toothpaste products that contain sorbitol.

What Are the Side Effects of Sorbitol?

Taking sorbitol may cause side effects, but most of them occur if you exceed the recommended dosage. Hayley Cimring also points out that “ many other incompletely indigestible substances, sorbitol… can ferment in the intestines,” potentially causing gas or diarrhea in excessive amounts.

Other possible side effects of sorbitol include (x, x, x, x):

See Also

  • Dry mouth
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach cramps

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should not take sorbitol.

Researchers performed an experiment on a lactating rat and noticed that alcohol passed to its offspring through its breastmilk, causing symptoms of toxicity.

The offspring were underdeveloped with possible damage to their livers and bone marrow (x). There is limited research on human subjects, but it may be best to stay away from sorbitol to be safe.

Sorbitol Intolerance

You may also want to test for sorbitol intolerance before taking the powder supplement. In a study, 32% of participants experienced symptoms of intolerance after they took sorbitol (x). Excessive amounts of sorbitol may also cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or worsen its effects for those who already have it.

Why Try Sorbitol?

If you’ve been looking for a healthy way to support blood sugar, digestion, dental health and hydration, sorbitol may be the right supplement for you.

There are several potential health benefits of sorbitol, all of which may result in a healthy overall lifestyle.

It is increasingly popular for patients with diabetes or people who follow low-carb diets because it typically does not interfere with blood sugar and is low in calories.

However, be sure to consult a doctor before taking sorbitol to make sure the supplement is the right one for you. Different patients may react differently to it. Although it may provide health benefits, it may not be the right supplement for everyone.

How to Take Sorbitol

As a sweetener, use pure sorbitol powder just as you would use regular table sugar. You can mix it into your baked goods or sprinkle it into your coffee or tea. The recommended dosage is 1 tsp (3,000 mg). If you consume more than 50 grams of sorbitol a day, it might cause a mild laxative effect. Consult a doctor before you use it.

Where to Buy Sorbitol

You can purchase sorbitol powder today at The company is an industry-leading manufacturer and distributor for pure dietary supplements. is not just a consumer brand.

It also supplies pure ingredients to other brands that distribute food and other supplement products. All products at BulkSupplements.

com are manufactured and tested according to proper and current manufacturing practices.

Are you interested in trying sorbitol powder to possibly control blood sugar, maintain oral health, hydrate the skin and reduce signs of aging and improve digestion? Contact to place an order today.

Bottom Line

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that is naturally present in fruits and vegetables, but is also processed from other sugars such as glucose. Sorbitol is considered a healthier alternative to sugar, because it contains 40% less calories than sugar but it is 60% sweeter, making it a common food additive.

People with diabetes may be able to use sorbitol instead of sugar to potentially increase glucose absorption, which may reduce blood sugar levels. Sorbitol may also help ease digestion, support hydration and maintain oral health.

It may help promote health and overall wellness and if you’re looking for a way to add sweetness to your life without all of the negative health effects of sugar, sorbitol may do the trick.

However, any supplement it may cause side effects, so you should always consult a doctor before taking it.

**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


Side Effects of Xylitol and Sorbitol

Is Sorbitol Safe? 7 Side Effects + Uses

Xylitol and sorbitol are sugar alcohols, which are natural alternatives to sugar that can help keep your blood sugar levels steady and improve your oral health.

Although they have a range of health benefits, they are associated with some unpleasant side effects.

Despite this, they are considered to be better for you than many other sweeteners, which sometimes cause severe and varied side effects.

Xylitol and sorbitol look sugar but have different effects on your body and health. Credit: nadisja/iStock/GettyImages

Sugar alcohols are popular substitutes for sugars. Also known as polyols, sugar alcohols can benefit your health in a number of ways but are not as sweet as sugar. In general, sugar alcohols are also known for causing gastrointestinal side effects.

Natural sweeteners within the sugar alcohol family typically affect the digestive system.

This happens because they are not absorbed by your intestines in the same way that sucrose-based sugar and most other foods are. In fact, most sugar alcohols are considered indigestible.

Consuming large quantities of a type of food your body cannot completely digest can cause side effects that include:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Stomachaches and cramps
  • Unintentional weight loss

Side effects these tend to occur when you intake substantial amounts of sugar alcohols. This means that these products are more useful in candy and gum, which you're meant to ingest in minimal amounts. However, people may experience side effects when they consume too much candy or gum sweetened with sugar alcohols.

Fortunately, if you frequently eat foods that contain sugar alcohols, your body should be able to adjust, and you should experience fewer side effects after a few weeks. But if you have health problems that require a special diet, celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome, sugar alcohol sweeteners may not be suitable for you and you may want to remove them from your diet entirely.

Xylitol and sorbitol are natural sweeteners that are found in a variety of fruits. Typically, the amounts of naturally occurring xylitol and sorbitol are fairly low. However, the laxative effect you may experience when eating large quantities of certain foods, dried prunes, actually happens partially because of their sugar alcohol content.

In addition to gastrointestinal side effects, xylitol can cause heart palpitations. These side effects are temporary and only occur with excess consumption of the product. Too much sorbitol is a bit more serious. This sugar alcohol is converted into glucose and can then accumulate in organs, your kidneys, or damage your eyes.

However, neither of these sweeteners is generally considered to be toxic to humans, which would only occur if you were consuming much more than the recommended amounts. In fact, compared to other sweeteners, most sugar alcohols provide health benefits that far outweigh their side effects.

Sugar alcohols, xylitol and sorbitol, have a range of positive health benefits and are known for being better for your oral health than sucrose-based sugar.

Natural sugar alternatives these are in demand because they are considered to be low-calorie or zero-calorie products.

Both of these products look and feel sucrose-based sugar, but won't negatively affect your blood sugar, making them particularly desirable for people with diabetes and those following low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diets.

Xylitol has a wide range of health benefits. Although sugar alcohols are generally considered to be beneficial to your oral health, xylitol is unique as it's actively helpful for your teeth and mouth.

It can reduce the incidence of cavities, remineralize your teeth and help balance the pH (acid to alkaline ratio) in your mouth.

Xylitol can also help decrease rates of ear infections and may be able to help increase bone volume, as well as having prebiotic effects that allow it to help lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Sorbitol has less-well-studied health benefits, but its digestive side effects are actually considered a positive in some types of products.

You'll find it used in laxatives and other medical products, as well as in foods and cosmetic items, as it can thicken products and increase their moisture content.

Un many natural alternative sweeteners, sorbitol is considered to be a nutritive sweetener as it gives your body energy when you consume it, which means it supplies calories.

Natural alternatives to sugar are considered to be better for your health than artificial sweeteners because they cause fewer side effects. Although the side effects caused by sorbitol and xylitol may seem undesirable, artificial sweeteners may have a much wider range of side effects, including:

  • Migraines and headaches
  • Skin problems
  • Weight gain
  • Organ problems (especially for your kidneys and liver)
  • Neuropsychological issues

You may want to use artificial sweeteners because they seem similar to sugar or are easier to cook with. But multiple scientific studies, including a 2018 study in the Journal of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, a 2017 study in the Frontiers in Physiology Journal and a 2016 study in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, have highlighted the negative effects of such products on the body.

In particular, artificial sweeteners sucralose may be bad for your digestive system and your gut's microbiome.

Having too much bad bacteria in your digestive system can affect everything from your metabolism to your brain via the gut-brain axis.

The link between your digestive system and brain is so important that it can influence neuronal function, contributing to the development of depression and other neuropsychological issues.

As naturally occurring sugar alcohols, xylitol and sorbitol are present in various plant-based products. The foods most ly to contain both xylitol and sorbitol are fruits and berries. Xylitol is easier to source than sorbitol as it exists in a variety of plant stalks and within the bark of trees.

Sorbitol is usually made from corn syrup. However, you can also find it in a variety of fruits and berries, including apples, pears, peaches, cherries, dates and prunes. Pears are particularly rich in sorbitol, more so than other commonly consumed fruits.

Xylitol is found in a wide variety of foods aside from berries, including fungi and grains. It is naturally produced from these foods or produced by microorganisms yeast and bacteria. Xylitol can be made from a variety of different sources, including foods :

  • Corn stalks, cobs and leaves
  • Rice, barley bran and other grains
  • Trees sago, eucalyptus, birch and bamboo
  • Plant waste, sunflower stalks and fruit pulp

Xylitol can be found in all sorts of products, from chewing gum to candy and even toothpaste. Sorbitol is found in similar products. Sugar alcohols are not typically used in beverages or for cooking as their consumption should be limited because of issues they may cause for your digestive system.

While it's possible to build up a tolerance to these side effects, the laxative effect of sugar alcohols is an indication that you shouldn't consume large amounts in one sitting.

This means that products these also need a warning label mentioning these potential effects.

If you choose to cook with sugar alcohols at home, use caution or use a natural product with fewer gastrointestinal effects, erythritol.

Everyone is familiar with sugar. This delightful, sweet substance is consumed worldwide. Sugar is typically available as a crystalline substance or as a fine, sifted powder in a variety of forms. Sugar in its finest forms can be used to coat desserts and add flavor, while brown sugar or muscovado sugar might be used for baking or in meat marinades.

Much to the distress of those who have a sweet tooth, sugar has a reputation for rotting teeth.

In addition, sugar is considered bad in the short term because it causes a rapid increase in energy followed by a severe “sugar” crash, but it is the long-term effects that are truly detrimental.

Too much sugar can negatively impact your health, altering your gut microbiome and increasing your chances of obesity. Excess sugar consumption can even affect your cognitive function.

If you are concerned about the amount of sugar you're eating and are hoping to find a healthier, more natural alternative, sugar alcohols may be the answer.

They are sweet, water-soluble and look similar to standard granulated white sugar. Although their flavor may be comparable in a raw state, they are not exactly the same when you cook them.

For instance, they won't brown or caramelize when heated, which means they cannot always replace sugar in recipes.

Although sugar alcohols may look sugar, each one has some characteristic that differentiates it from sugar. Sorbitol, for instance, has only 60 percent of the sweetness of sugar. This is a quality typical of most sugar alcohols. Xylitol is an exception to this, as its sweetness is considered equivalent to that of sucrose-based sugar.

Xylitol also tastes very similar to sugar, un many alternative sweeteners. Sorbitol, on the other hand, has a cooling aftertaste that complements gum and certain candies, but can be too prominent in baked goods or other cooked products.

The main issue with using sugar alcohols as a replacement for sugar is that they cannot be considered equivalent products and are not typically used as equivalent replacements for sucrose-based sugar.

Products sorbitol are not sweet enough and even those that are, xylitol, often cause laxative effects if you're making very sweet foods that require a large amount of the product.

Not all natural alternative sweeteners produce side effects.

The minimal side effects caused by erythritol products, along with its textural qualities, mean that you can cook with this sugar alcohol with fewer issues.

Erythritol can typically be used as 1-1 replacement for sugar in most sweet foods. This particular sugar alcohol may actually be the best one for your oral health as well — even better than xylitol or sorbitol.

If sugar alcohols are not suitable for you because of their side effects, you can try other natural alternative sweeteners. Plant-based sweeteners with positive health benefits exist and lack the side effects of sugar alcohols.

One example is stevia, which contains about a dozen different steviol glycosides that make it sweet.

Although this plant-based alternative to sugar has a mildly licorice- aftertaste that might complement certain foods, it may produce an undesirable aftertaste.


Sorbitol – Everything You Need To Know

Is Sorbitol Safe? 7 Side Effects + Uses

What do you do when your sweetest friend is also your greatest enemy? You try to keep a safe distance, don’t you? The same is the case with sugar. In an effort to steer clear of sugar, we have begun looking at alternatives sugar alcohols. One of the simplest sugar alcohols is sorbitol.

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol present in few foods with fewer calories. Along with taste, sorbitol has a variety of health benefits. It is, hence, used in many sugar-free foods you consume day-in-day-out. To know what they are, and why you should choose sorbitol over sugar, scroll down!

Sorbitol a.k.a. glucitol is a sugar alcohol. It occurs naturally in fruits apricots, apples, peaches, nectarines, and dates. It can also be produced synthetically from glucose.

The most commonly used polyol in the United States is sorbitol. It is the standard sweetener in several sugar-free chewing gums and over-the-counter medicines. Sorbitol is 60% as sweet as sucrose and is much less expensive than xylitol.

Above all, sorbitol is a low-calorie sweetener with just 2 calories per gram. Only 50%-80% of it is absorbed in the small intestine. The remaining product is broken down by the intestinal bacteria, releasing gases. This is why some might feel bloated after consuming sorbitol regularly (1).

Ironically, sorbitol is harmless for those with diabetes. Sorbitol also has a list of unique benefits. Take a look!

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1. Promotes Dental Health

One of the common dental health problems we face is caries. Dental caries is a bacterial disease in which diet is a major etiologic factor. Cutting down on sugar intake has failed as a strategy because people cannot stick to it.

The current solution is substituting sugars with sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, xylitol, and erythritol. Sorbitol, other polyols, cannot be metabolized by many bacterial strains. When you consume foods containing sorbitol, the bacteria in your oral cavity will not be able to metabolize it to survive.

So, dental plaques would become less severe or wouldn’t even form in the first place (2).

2. Eases Constipation

Sorbitol has a mild laxative effect. Though this property is debatable, it is said that sorbitol can relieve severe constipation. Consuming large amounts, about 7-14 g per day, can ease your bowel movement.

This happens because sorbitol is an osmotic laxative (3). It helps in holding and drawing water in the stools. This helps the stool soften and move easily through the tract.

Since making sorbitol is cheaper and relatively harmless, it can be a low-cost alternative to treat constipation in children and the elderly (3). But do keep in mind that sorbitol may also lead to diarrhea, if used in excess for long periods (2).

3. Ideal Sweetener For Diabetic Individuals

Generally, those who have diabetes are asked to stay away from sugar or glucose. In such cases, using sugar substitutes, sorbitol, is an excellent way of not missing out on desserts.

Sorbitol is only partially absorbed (about 50%-80%) by the intestine and gets converted to glycogen in the liver. Studies have figured out that sorbitol doesn’t shoot up blood sugar levels. It is also absorbed in an insulin-independent fashion and doesn’t cause concomitant hyperglycemia ( glucose or sucrose).

However, there is no evidence that sugar alcohol-sweetened products have any benefit on long-term glycemic control in people with diabetes (4).

Guess What!

  • Sorbitol gets absorbed better if you take it along with glucose. Consuming sorbitol in a meal works better than taking it as a stand-alone supplement, both orally and intravenously.
  • Almost all the chewable tablets and chewing gums have sorbitol as an added artificial sweetener.
  • There is no evidence that artificially sweetened (with sugar alcohols) products can result in weight loss. They can give you less ‘sugar’ and less energy compared to their counterparts.
  • We have inconclusive data about the relationship between sugar intake and weight gain. So, let’s not presume!

4. Protects Your Skin

The human skin maintains an optimal barrier function that varies considerably in humidity. Results from several in-vitro experiments showed that 50 mM sorbitol protected epidermal keratinocytes from osmotic toxicity induced by sodium chloride (in humid conditions) (5).

Sorbitol exhibits significant improvement in both skin barrier repair and moisturization. Studies claim that this healing effect was more pronounced in individuals from dry and arid environmental conditions (5).

This proves that sorbitol can double up as a good skin moisturizer and shield it against harsh climate changes.

5. Cleanses Your Scalp And Hair

Sorbitol is going to be your best friend if you have a scalp that quickly accumulates dirt and grime. The sorbitol molecules in the shampoos bind to the dirt and oil on your scalp. They make dirt more water-soluble and help remove it from the scalp. Sorbitol is, hence, a potent surfactant.

Interestingly, sorbitol can trap and retain water too. In chemical terms, sorbitol is a humectant. Along with washing away the dirt, it can also lock the moisture in your scalp.

So, sorbitol is a mild surfactant that keeps your scalp and hair away from dryness, dirt, and infections (6).

Tell me honestly, don’t you want to switch to sorbitol and chuck sugar immediately?

I almost did. But the ‘wiser me’ prompted me to understand more about the fate of sorbitol in our body. What happens if there’s an overdose of sorbitol? And how much sorbitol can you take in a day?

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There are no major side effects of ingesting small amounts of sorbitol. It is, anyway, used in many desserts and bakery foods.

– But an overdose of sorbitol, about 20g-50g, can lead to severe diarrhea and stomach cramps. In some people, as little as 5g of sorbitol may cause bloating and gastric distress. This is also because sorbitol gets metabolized slowly and is absorbed only partially (7).

– The bigger issue with such artificial sweeteners is carcinogenicity. In the 1970s, saccharin and a bunch of other sweeteners were linked to a number of health problems, including cancer.

But according to the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies, there’s no sound scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States cause cancer or other serious health problems (8).


  • Look for sugar alcohols on the ingredient list on a food. Some examples of sugar alcohols are erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH), isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol
  • Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Meaning, the closer they are to the beginning of the list, the more of the ingredient is in the food.

Well, now that it’s all clear, you can comfortably use sorbitol as a sugar substitute. It is considered safe for all, including diabetic individuals.

Long-term use of sorbitol can cause gut issues and hence, it should be taken carefully without making it a a daily routine. Remember, don’t let your daily intake of sorbitol be more than 50 g.

If you wish to avoid sorbitol for obvious reasons, you could try xylitol and mannitol. What work best, at the end of the day, are natural sweeteners honey, maple syrup, or date syrup.

The Take Home Message…

Gone are those days when people used artificial sweeteners in food and beverages. Sugar alcohols are the new low-cal sugar alternatives in the market.

Sorbitol is one of the simplest, cheapest, and safest sugar substitute. It is metabolized slowly in the small intestine and hence has less effect on the plasma glucose levels.

This is why sorbitol is safe for everybody – including those with diabetes. Hence, you can choose this sugar alcohol over sucrose, fructose, and other artificial sweeteners. However, don’t make it a part of your daily routine as long-term use of sorbitol can cause gut issues.

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Sorbitol Uses, Side Effects & Warnings –

Is Sorbitol Safe? 7 Side Effects + Uses

Generic Name: sorbitol (SOR bi tal)
Brand Name:Arlex

Medically reviewed by on Nov 25, 2019 – Written by Cerner Multum

What is sorbitol?

Sorbitol is a laxative. It is used to treat constipation.

Sorbitol may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

A laxative may be habit forming and should be used only until your bowel habits return to normal. Never share sorbitol with another person, especially someone with a history of eating disorder. Keep the medication in a place where others cannot get to it.

Ask a doctor or pharmacist before taking this medication if you have an allergy, if your bowel habits have changed suddenly in the past 2 weeks, or if you have nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain that has not been checked by a doctor.

Avoid taking other laxatives or stool softeners unless your doctor tells you to.

You should not use sorbitol if you are allergic to it.

A laxative may be habit forming and should be used only until your bowel habits return to normal. Never share sorbitol with another person, especially someone with a history of eating disorder. Keep the medication in a place where others cannot get to it.

Ask a doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to take sorbitol if you have:

  • any allergy;

  • nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain that has not been checked by a doctor;

  • if your bowel habits have changed suddenly in the past 2 weeks.

It is not known whether sorbitol will harm an unborn baby. Do not use this medication without medical advice if you are pregnant.

It is not known whether sorbitol passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Older adults may be more sensitive to the effects of this medicine.

Do not give this medicine to a child without medical advice.

Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Sorbitol is usually taken only for a short time until your symptoms clear up.

Do not use this medication for longer than 1 week without the advice of your doctor.

Store at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

Overdose symptoms may include diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Avoid taking other laxatives or stool softeners unless your doctor tells you to.

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Stop using sorbitol and call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • severe stomach cramps;

  • vomiting;

  • severe diarrhea;

  • rectal bleeding;

  • black, bloody, or tarry stools;

  • weakness, dizziness; or

  • frequent urge to have a bowel movement.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • gas, mild nausea or stomach cramps; or

  • rectal irritation.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Usual Adult Dose for Constipation:

Oral: 30 to 150 mL (70% solution) once.

Rectal: 120 mL (25% to 30% solution) as a rectal enema once.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Constipation:

2 to 11 years:Oral: 2 mL/kg (70% solution) once.Rectal: 30 to 60 mL (25% to 30% solution) as a rectal enema once.Greater than or equal to 12 years:Oral: 30 to 150 mL (70% solution) once.

Rectal: 120 mL (25% to 30% solution) as a rectal enema once.

What other drugs will affect sorbitol?

Tell your doctor about all other medicines you use, especially other laxatives, stool softeners, or sodium polystyrene sulfonate.

This list is not complete and other drugs may interact with sorbitol. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.

Remember, keep this and all other medicines the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Copyright 1996-2018 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 1.02.

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