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Is sorbitol harmful or not?

  1. Sugar substitutes have recently been the subject of heated debate. And certainly well-known sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin are often seen as unhealthy or even carcinogenic toxins.

  1. But what about substances that are less extremely sweet, and that are not produced artificially but are extracted from fruits and other natural products? As it turns out, the claims against such sweeteners are often a lot less convincing. In this blog we discuss the sweetener sorbitol. Is there anything wrong with that, or is it actually okay to eat that substance?

What is sorbitol?

  1. Sorbitol - also known in Europe as E420 - is a natural sugar found in all kinds of fruits. Think apples, plums, blackberries and pears. It is a so-called extensive sweetener, which means that, unlike substances such as aspartame, it is slightly less sweet than sugar itself.

  1. The sweetening power is about half. It also provides fewer calories. Each gram of sorbitol contains about 2.4 kcal, whereas with sugar there are a little more than 4.

Use sorbitol

  1. Sorbitol is used for many different products. Especially for many goods that are light or sugar-free. You will find it often in products that contain fruit. Think sugar-free jams, ice cream or cakes of all shapes and sizes. It is also often found in sweets and chocolate.

  1. A final category in which sorbitol is often incorporated, consists of products that are used for fresh breath, such as chewing gum and mouthwash. It is not only used in it to make the taste sweeter and more pleasant, but also because it prevents the product from drying out, which improves the shelf life.

Benefits of sorbitol

  1. One of the biggest benefits of sorbitol, of course, is that it contains a lot less calories than sugar. This makes it slightly more suitable for dieters - although of course it is always better not to eat sweetened foods at all. A second advantage is that it is absorbed into the blood more slowly than sugar.

  1. This ensures that the blood sugar level rises less explosively, making sorbitol also suitable for diabetics. Finally, unlike many other sweeteners, sorbitol does not cause tooth decay. That is why it is so popular as a mouthwash ingredient.

Disadvantages of sorbitol

  1. Nevertheless, there are certainly disadvantages associated with this sweetener. These are not as serious as with many other sweeteners - there are no known studies linking sorbitol to cancer, for example.

  1. Yet there is one serious problem. A large dose of sorbitol can cause severe diarrhea, which can cause dehydration and other problems. Infants and people with a hypersensitivity to this substance can already suffer from this side effect at 5 grams. For that reason, sorbitol is prohibited in baby products. 30 grams causes cramps and stomach upset in almost everyone.


  1. Whether it is because sorbitol is a relatively natural sweetener, or because it is not yet as well known and widely used as, for example, aspartame. In any case, relatively few negative voices can be heard about it. If they exist, they are mainly based on the said laxative effect or on the somewhat vague argument that the substance is not produced in a very natural way.

  1. It therefore appears to be a relatively good alternative to sugar, provided it is consumed in small quantities. And of course, it is always better not to eat sweetened products at all when trying to reduce excessive sweet cravings!

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