Sorbitol is an artificial sweetener that exhibits laxative properties. It is used as a sugar substitute in food industry. This article provides information on sorbitol dangers. Read on, to know how excessive consumption of sorbitol can affect your health adversely.
Sorbitol is a type of sugar alcohol and it is also known as glucitol. It is naturally present in some fruits and berries. Human body metabolizes sorbitol slowly. These days, it is added as an artificial sweetener to juices, sugar-free pastries, gums and mints. It is also found in diet foods like diet ice creams, colas, sugar-free chewing gums, cough syrups, medicines, etc. It is a source of energy and so is also sometimes referred to as nutritive sweetener. It is also used as an emulsifier for thickening of cosmetics. As a sugar substitute, it is used in a diabetic diet; but you should keep it in mind that it also works as a laxative. Actually, it is a harmless additive but an overdose or consumption of sorbitol over long periods increases sorbitol risks.
Adverse Effects of Sorbitol
You should consult your physician to regulate the amount of sorbitol intake on a day-to-day basis, since an overdose may lead to:
- Excessive thirst and dehydration due to increased bowel movement or diarrhea.
- Stomach cramps and abdominal pain.
- Nausea and vomiting in people who are very sensitive to it.
- Abdominal bloating and/or black tarry stools.
- Rectal bleeding and anal irritation
- Swelling of the face and body
- In rare cases, allergies like skin rash, swelling and itching.
- Dizziness if used for an extended period.
- Dry mouth
- Increased or decreased urination
- Unintended and dramatic weight loss, mainly when individuals chew gum with artificial sweeteners, multiple times per day.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Undigested sorbitol serves as a platform for fermentation of bacteria in stomach which results in production of gas, bloating, cramps and flatulence.
- Diarrhea: Ingestion of at least 10 g of sorbitol per day greatly influences a process known as osmotic purge. While passing through the intestine, this food additive draws water in the opposite direction through natural osmosis, causing bowel movements to be watery, increasing the risk of diarrhea.
Sorbitol overdose symptoms are generally mild and are completely preventable. When the source of sorbitol is removed from the diet, the symptoms subside.
Why Avoid Sorbitol
- Sorbitol affects the function of the stomach. Problems arise mainly because the stomach cannot digest it properly. Incomplete digestion or malabsorption of this additive in the small intestine is responsible for fermentation, which in turn causes irritable bowel syndrome, dehydration and eventually, weight loss.
- More consumption of sorbitol leads to more sorbitol buildup over time. Fermentation continues and the adverse effects are experienced until the person stops consuming foods containing sorbitol.
- It is necessary to know sorbitol dangers, because not only a large amount but a small amount of this artificial sweetener can also lead to abdominal pain, if the person is suffering from IBS or any other gastrointestinal condition. This food additive can aggravate stomach problems.
- Individuals diagnosed with diabetes have an increased risk of sorbitol side effects. An enzyme called aldose reductase converts glucose into sorbitol. In diabetic individuals, the actions of aldose reductase are greatly accelerated. Accelerated conversion of glucose into sorbitol can result in damaged nerves, blood vessels, eyes and kidneys. Cataracts also can occur. So, individuals diagnosed with diabetes should limit or avoid the use of this artificial sweetener.
- Intravenous sorbitol infusions can be lethal for patients with hereditary fructose intolerance.
- Pregnant women should consult the doctor before consuming sorbitol during pregnancy.
Different types of gums, toothpastes, ice creams, sweets, etc. contain sorbitol. Stopping the use of such products is the best way to stay away from sorbitol dangers. If you wish to use an artificial sweetener, you should consult your doctor and limit the consumption to minimum dosage.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.