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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Quick Facts about Sorbitol, Mannitol & Isomalt
Synthetic Sweeteners: 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.
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.
Absorb moisture from the air: 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.
Taste: Sorbitol and mannitol have a strong cooling effect (which feels like you are sucking a mint but without the mint flavor) when dissolved in the mouth. 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.
How do Sorbitol, Mannitol and Isomalt Behave in our Body?
Sorbitol and mannitol are slowly absorbed in the small intestine and are metabolized by the liver, mostly as fructose, which is converted to glucose without insulin. They do not significantly increase blood sugar levels. Isomalt is hardly broken down and absorbed in the small intestine, being mainly fermented by the microbiota (beneficial microbes) in the large intestine. Sorbitol have a glycemic index (GI) of 9 and mannitol about zero. Isomalt has a GI of 2.
Calories: A high proportion of the sorbitol, mannitol, or isomalt you eat (up to 75 percent) is not metabolized and so they contribute about less 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 (approximately 4 grams). 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).
Warning: Adverse effects, consequence of undigested polyols reaching the large intestine, include 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 that experienced when having too much 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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