Sorbitol and diabetes have been a major health issue for years. Some sources say that sorbitol can lower blood sugar, while others claim it can worsen diabetes. So which is which?
To be able to identify the truths about this issue, we have to take a deep look at sorbitol and know its different properties such as its health advantages and disadvantages.
Once we know these details, we can confirm the true relationship nature between sorbitol and diabetes.
What is Sorbitol?
Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that is also known as glucitol. This compound is obtained through reduction of glucose and is found mostly on natural foods such as apples, peaches, prunes and other fruits.
According to the Calorie Control Council, sorbitol was first discovered by a French chemist in 1872. It is prepared by the hydrogen of glucose which the body metabolize slowly with little or no insulin.
Sorbitol is synthesized by sorbitol-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, which is converted to fructose by succinate dehydrogenase and sorbitol dehydrogenase. Succinate dehydrogenase is an enzyme complex which is included in the citric acid cycle.
This compound is now widely used for different purposes such as food sweetener, health care, laxative and other miscellaneous uses such as non-food products like toothpaste and mouthwash.
Both the European Union and the US Food and Drug approved the use of sorbitol and was rated as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) product.
This compound is also used as humectant in various products to primarily prevent any loss of moisture, which is why sorbitol is widely used in the confectionary, baked goods and chocolate industry.
Read More: Calorie Control – Sorbitol
Advantages of Using Sorbitol
Sorbitol does have many functions or advantages with regards to either health or non-health products. For example, sorbitol can be combined well with other food ingredients such sugars, gelling agents, proteins and vegetable fats because it is chemically unreactive and very stable.
Below are some of the advantages of sorbitol:
Obviously, sorbitol is a perfect sugar substitute and is commonly referred to as a nutritive sweetener because it contains 2.6 kilocalories per gram compared to 4 kilocalories for cabohydrates average content.
Sweet products that commonly contains sorbitol are ice cream, mints, cough syrups, chewing gums and many others.
Some people are experiencing gastrointestinal distress when consuming foods that contains sorbitol. Because of this, this compound is also used as a non-stimulant laxative agent, via an oral suspension.
Sorbitol oral suspension’s laxative effects starts within the large intestine, which stimulates bowel movements. Aside from that, research shows that these products are safe for use by the elderly.
According to a report published on the official website of FDA, sorbitol is used in bacterial culture media to distinguish Escherichia Coli 0157:H7 pathogens from most E. Coli strains. This is possible because this E. Coli doesn’t have the capabilities to ferment sorbitol.
Sorbitol can also help eliminate your body’s excess potassium ions in a hyperkalaemic state, if combined with kayexalate. The FDA reversed this study in 2010 when it was discovered that it can increase the risk of GI necrosis.
Sorbitol is used in cosmetics as a thickener and humectant while is widely used in mouthwash and toothpaste without causing cavities. It is also used in sugar free gums to add flavor.
This compound is also used as a cryoptectact additive for surimi fish paste, which is common in Alaska pollack.
Over-all below are the advantages of using Sorbitol:
- Alternative sugar additive
- Won’t cause any dental caries
- Used in different varieties of products
- Humectan, texturizing and anti-crystallizing agent
- Provide fewer calories compared to sugar
- Good tasting sugar alternative
Disadvantages of Using Sorbitol
Sorbitol is recognized as safe by several government institutions worldwide and has been used for foods, medical and other types of products in most industries.
However, minor issues were reportedly linked to over-consumption of sorbitol. Common issues includes development of irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal health conditions.
A study in rats proved that sorbitol, when combined with sodium polystyrene sulfonate, can cause GI tract complications such as bleeding, colonic ulcers, ischemic colitis and colonic necrosis.
The study concludes that this combination can can cause immunosuppression, hypovolemia, postoperative setting, hypotension and peripheral vascular disease in humans. So it is wise to use SPS-sorbitol products with caution.
Read More: Practical Gastro – Case Study Report
Other reported sorbitol overdose health risks includes abdominal pain, flatulence, mild to severe diarrhea and migraine.
Facts Between Sorbitol and Diabetes
With regards to sorbitol and its effects to diabetes, contradicting reports are found throughout the web. Sorbitol is generally recognized safe to use, which means that it depends on you if you want to use this alternative sweetener.
This issue is well debated since the early 1900’s, whether or not sorbitol can cause harm or benefits to diabetic patients. Various lab tests used sorbitol substitutes for carbohydrate to be used for diabetic people as a main dieting regime. Results shows no significant findings.
Reinwein company tested sorbitol to diabetic patients and they discovered an increase in respiratory quotient, but no changes in blood sugar levels. However, companies such Roche and Donhoffer conducted similar lab tests that led into different results.
Roche finds sorbitol to have no effects on respiratory quotient, while Donhoffer’s study showed an increase in blood sugar level.
Read More: Sugar Alcohols – Annals of Medicine
What does this mean to you? If you are diabetic, it is best to consume sugar-free foods that contains sorbitol in a moderate manner.
Although sorbitol is widely regarded as safe and has been used for common foods or products, these foods still contains carbohydrates that can help increase your blood glucose levels, and put your health into many risks.
Other potential health risks includes weight gain and reduced blood glucose control.
Sorbitol and Diabetes Summary
Sorbitol and diabetes are always linked to each other because people fear the true nature of sobitol as an alternative sweetener that can increase blood glucose levels.
Sorbitol is naturally found in foods, which is hard to avoid. So if you are diabetic, make sure that you moderate your consumption of sorbitol-based products to keep your diabetes risk at bay.
To ensure a good health without the fear of sugars, make sure that you exercise regularly and manage the foods you eat. You can also take diabetes supplements to support your battle against this deadly condition.