SORBITOL, MANNITOL, ISOMALT
On my quest to discover all sweeteners with sorbitol, mannitol & isomalt in stores shelves across the country, I found about 20 products
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FAQs about Sorbitol, Mannitol & Isomalt
Is Sorbitol Natural or Synthetic? How About Mannitol and Isomalt? Sorbitol and mannitol were the first polyols to become available as sweeteners. Both are found in nature, but the store-bought sorbitol and mannitol are synthetically produced from glucose and fructose, respectively. The most common and more cost-effective raw materials for both polyols are either cornstarch or glucose syrups. Isomalt is another polyol but is not found in nature and is made from refined sugar (sucrose). All three sweeteners are synthetic, but sorbitol and mannitol may be labeled as natural. Isomalt cannot because it is not naturally occurring.
How is Sorbitol Sold in Stores? Sorbitol is available in powder form and is used as the main ingredient in sugar-free pancake (waffle) syrups, where it is combined with high-intensity sweeteners (see image above). Mannitol is sold only in powder form due to its low solubility (only 22g dissolves in 100mL water). You can buy isomalt as granules or as a fine powder, which is often used for candy making.
Sorbitol Absorbs Moisture? Sorbitol has an affinity for water and absorbs humidity from its surroundings (very hygroscopic) so it should be stored in an airtight container. Mannitol and isomalt can be stored on the table on a sugar bowl as they have low hygroscopicity.
How Does Sorbitol Taste Like? Sorbitol and mannitol have a strong cooling effect when dissolved in the mouth. It feels like you are sucking a mint but without the mint flavor. Isomalt does not produce a cooling effect. Sorbitol, mannitol, and isomalt are about half as sweet as table sugar; 1 teaspoon of table sugar = 2 teaspoons of sorbitol/mannitol/isomalt.
Is Sorbitol Bad for Teeth? No. Polyols are tooth-friendly as they do not react with bacteria in the mouth and do not cause tooth decay. Visit my Tooth Friendly Sweeteners to learn more. The Food and Drug Administration allows polyols' labels to carry claims such as "does not promote," "may reduce the risk of," and "useful in not promoting" caries.
How do Sorbitol, Mannitol, and Isomalt Behave in our Body? A portion of the amount ingested is slowly digested into glucose. The rest goes to the large intestine. Sorbitol and mannitol are slowly absorbed in the small intestine and are metabolized by the liver, mostly as fructose. Fructose, unlike glucose, does not immediately increase blood sugar levels [the liver has to turn it into glucose before the body can use it] and is converted to glucose without insulin. Sorbitol and mannitol do not significantly increase blood sugar levels [there is a time delay from when fructose is digested to when it becomes available as glucose]. Isomalt is hardly broken down and absorbed in the small intestine, being mainly fermented by the microbiota (beneficial microbes) in the large intestine.
What is the Glycemic Index and "Net Carbs"? Sorbitol has a glycemic index (GI) of 9 and mannitol about zero. Isomalt has a GI of 2. To calculate their "net carbs" per serving, we can subtract about half of the amount listed on the nutrition facts label as "sugar alcohol" from the total carbohydrates. Questions about the glycemic index and "net carbs" of sweeteners? Refer to the images below.
How Many Calories? Polyols, like table sugar, are carbohydrates. However, a portion of the sorbitol, mannitol, or isomalt we eat (from around 50 to 75 percent) is not metabolized and so they contribute fewer calories than table sugar. According to the FDA regulation for nutrition labels, one gram of sorbitol provides 2.6 cal; about 8 cal per teaspoon (3g). Mannitol provides 1.6 calories per gram; about 7 calories per teaspoon (about 4g). Isomalt provides 2.0 calories per gram; about 12 calories per teaspoon (6g); when in nib form it provides 10 cal per nib (about 5g).
What are the Bad Side Effects of Sorbitol, Mannitol, and Isomalt?: Adverse effects, a consequence of undigested polyols reaching the large intestine, including a variety of gastrointestinal issues. Bloating, stomach rumble, flatulence, cramps, and diarrhea are commonly associated with excessive intake. The uncomfortable digestive effects you might feel are similar to those experienced when having too many high-fiber foods (beans). Sorbitol, mannitol, and isomalt are FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides, and Polyols) carbohydrates and should not be consumed by people with "irritable bowel syndrome" (IBS).
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