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sorbitol on teacup and plate

What is sorbitol?

20 Apr 2021 • 1 min read


From a couple of teaspoons in your morning brew to a tasty bag of sweets shared at the cinema, there’s no doubt that we love sugar here in the United Kingdom. In fact, it’s thought that adults consume over double the recommended daily sugar amount, with children and teens munching on even more of the sweet stuff.1

Most of us know that too much sugar can have health implications. It can lead to excess weight, which has a range of associated health concerns and tooth decay.2

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that many of us are looking for ways to reduce our sugar intake. Sweeteners are thought to be a safer alternative, providing all the taste with fewer side effects.3 However, there’s a lot of mixed information out there about sweeteners and their benefits. This article focuses on sorbitol, one of the approved sweeteners for use here in the UK.4

What is sorbitol?

Sorbitol is a type of sugar alcohol (or poliol) found naturally in many different fruits (like apples, berries, peaches, and plums). It can be produced from corn syrup and is typically used as a sweetener in food products, drinks, and medication.5 You can often find it in sugar-free jams, chocolates, chewing gum, and desserts on the supermarket shelves.

Sorbitol is around 60% as sweet as sugar and has about 35 percent fewer calories per grams. It’s thought to be a much better choice in terms of oral health too. For those reasons and others, it’s considered a healthier alternative to sugar.6

Benefits of sorbitol

Whether you’re keeping an eye on your sugar intake or simply want to make less sugary choices, sorbitol offers a range of different benefits. These may include:

  • Blood sugar control7
  • Weight loss8
  • Oral health9

However, it is essential to talk to your doctor if you have any specific health concerns. This is especially important if you’re taking any other medications or if you have a chronic condition. They’re the best people to advise on how best to treat your symptoms or concerns.

Potential risks of sorbitol

While sorbitol is thought to be safe for most people, it is essential to be aware of the potential side effects of consuming too much.10 Some side effects might include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Bloating11

Suppose you’re concerned about the potential side effects of sorbitol for sweetening your food. In that case, there are plenty of other artificial sweeteners on the market. If you’re wondering about whether sorbitol is included in your chosen product, check the label. All pre-packaged food will have information about whether or not the ingredient list includes sorbitol, as well as advice on how much to eat or use.

Last updated: 7 April 2021



Author: Andrea DobronszkiSenior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: Aug 2020

Master’s Degree in Food Science and Technology Engineering and BSc in Dietetics

Andrea started her career as a clinical dietitian and lecturer at a university hospital, managing the dietetic treatment of patients with various diseases, and giving lectures in nutrition for medical students.

Later she worked as a Product Developer at a sport nutrition company where she developed food supplements and fortified foods, and ensured that the products complied with the relevant regulations.

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