AskDefine | Define sorbitol

User Contributed Dictionary





  1. A sugar alcohol (2R,3S,4S,5S)-hexane-1,2,3,4,5,6-hexol used as an artificial sweetener


  • E420 when used as a sweetener

Extensive Definition

Sorbitol, also known as glucitol, is a sugar alcohol that the body metabolises slowly. It is obtained by reduction of glucose changing the aldehyde group to an additional hydroxyl group hence the name sugar alcohol.



Sorbitol is used in "sugar-free" mints and various cough syrups and is usually listed under the inactive ingredients.
Sorbitol is a sugar substitute often used in diet foods (including diet drinks and ice cream) and sugar-free chewing gum. It also occurs naturally in many stone fruits and berries from trees of the genus Sorbus. Sorbitol is also referred to as a nutritive sweetener because it provides dietary energy: 2.6 kilocalories (11 kilojoules) per gram versus the average 4 kilocalories (17 kJ) of sugar and starch, while retaining 60% of the sweetness. As a food additive it has an E number E420, categorized as a sweetener, emulsifier and humectant.


Sorbitol can be used as a non-stimulant laxative as either an oral suspension or suppository. The drug works by drawing water into the large intestine, thereby stimulating bowel movements. Sorbitol has been determined safe to use in the elderly although it is by no means recommended.


Sorbitol is often used in modern cosmetics as a humectant and thickener. Some transparent gels can only be made with sorbitol as it has a refractive index sufficiently high for transparent formulations. It is also used as a humectant in some cigarettes.
Sorbitol is used as a cryoprotectant additive (mixed with sucrose and sodium polyphosphates) in the manufacture of surimi, a highly refined, uncooked fish paste most commonly produced from Alaska (or walleye) pollock (Theragra chalcogramma).
Furthermore, Sorbitol, combined with Kayexalate, helps the body rid itself of excess potassium ions in a hyperkalaemic state. The Kayexalate exchanges sodium ions for potassium ions in the bowel, while sorbitol helps to eliminate it.
Sorbitol when combined with potassium nitrate has found some success as an amateur solid rocket fuel.
Sorbitol is often used in Mouthwash, as it said that when mixed with other certain ingredients it can help fight plaque.
Sorbitol is identified as a potential key chemical intermediate from biomass resources. Complete reduction of sorbitol opens the way to alkanes such as hexane which can be used as a biofuel. Sorbitol itself provides much of the hydrogen required for the transformation.
19 C6O6H14 → 13 C6H14 + 36 CO2 + 42 H2O
The above chemical reaction is exothermic and 1.5 mole of sorbitol generates 1 mole of hexane. When hydrogen is co-fed, no carbon dioxide production takes place.

Overdose effects

Ingesting large amounts of sorbitol can lead to some abdominal pain, gas, and mild to severe diarrhea. Sorbitol ingestion of 20 grams/day (g/d) as sugar-free gum has led to severe diarrhea leading to unintended weight loss of 24 lbs in an 114 lb woman; another patient required hospitalization after habitually consuming 30g/d. Sorbitol can also aggravate irritable bowel syndrome and fructose malabsorption.
Even in the absence of dietary sorbitol, cells also produce sorbitol naturally. When too much sorbitol is produced inside cells, it can cause damage. Diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy may be related to excess sorbitol in the cells of the eyes and nerves. The source of this sorbitol in diabetics is excess glucose, which goes through the polyol pathway .

See also

External links


sorbitol in Czech: Sorbitol
sorbitol in Danish: Sorbitol
sorbitol in German: Sorbit
sorbitol in Spanish: Sorbitol
sorbitol in French: Sorbitol
sorbitol in Galician: Sorbitol
sorbitol in Hungarian: Szorbit
sorbitol in Dutch: Sorbitol
sorbitol in Japanese: ソルビトール
sorbitol in Polish: Sorbitol
sorbitol in Portuguese: Sorbitol
sorbitol in Russian: Сорбит
sorbitol in Serbian: Sorbitol
sorbitol in Finnish: Sorbitoli
sorbitol in Swedish: Sorbitol
sorbitol in Thai: ซอร์บิทอล
sorbitol in Chinese: 山梨糖醇
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