Sorbitol Intolerance (Sorbitol Malabsorption) means that the small intestine breaks down sorbitol insufficiently or not at all. Sorbitol Intolerance is not a disease, but completely normal. It is the rule, not the exception. No one can digest sorbitol like a sugar. This indigestibility is the reason that sorbitol contains fewer calories - just like other sugar alcohols. The price for this is the one that has recently been legally required to label sorbitol-containing products: "Can have a laxative effect in larger quantities".
For people with Fructose Malabsorption or Lactose Intolerance, sorbitol is taboo: it would worsen the symptoms. In the case of fructose, sorbitol and fructose compete for the same transport and metabolic pathway.
Since the body metabolizes sorbitol to fructose, patients with a Hereditary Fructose Intolerance must also strictly avoid sorbitol.
What is sorbitol?
Sorbitol is a so-called sugar alcohol, similar to the household sugar sucrose. However, it is only about half as sweet. Sorbitol is naturally present in many fruits, especially in stone fruits, for example in plums, apricots and cherries. Because of the sorbitol, large amounts of cherries in every human being have a laxative effect - as grandmother warned the children before eating too many cherries, especially with lots of water.
Sorbitol is produced artificially in large amounts and used in many foods:
- In contrast to sucrose, sorbitol is considered to be tooth-friendly since the bacteria metabolize sorbitol as poorly as the human body.
- Many diet products are sweetened with sorbitol, nominally to have fewer calories.
- Since sorbitol binds with water, it is used as a moistener - it is common in baked goods, chocolate and praline fillings and sauces. Even the bread from the baker around the corner can contain sorbitol, as it is often mixed into baking mixes. It extends the shelf life; the bread stays moist, and thus seemingly longer fresh.
Sorbitol also has a broad range of applications. It is found in cosmetic products, as well as in building materials. Manufacturers even add it to tobacco as a moisturizing agent.
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