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What is Maltitol? What is Sorbitol? Know Your Sugar Substitues! Better Yet, Know What you are Putting into Your Body!

Updated on February 26, 2010
When following the Atkins Diet, eat all the cheese you want!
When following the Atkins Diet, eat all the cheese you want!

A few years ago I decided to lose a few pounds. Ok, more than a few…but who's counting. Anyway, I had heard about the Atkins Diet Plan so I decided to give it a go. After all, I'm a huge meat eater and I also don't mind cheese. Yummy! For those of you that don't know, the Atkin's diet allows you to eat as much meat and cheese as you want. As long as you stay away from foods that have carbs you are good to go.

One day, while on a lunch break, I went to the local drugstore to pick up a prescription. While I was waiting, I noticed a bag of chocolate that said "Low Carbs." Really…could it be? Could I really eat delicious chocolate while following the Atkins Diet? I picked up the bag, read the nutrition label…only one carb per serving. YAHOO!! I was in heaven. I quickly bought the bag and went back to my office.


If it's too good to be true, it probably is!

Later that afternoon, I pulled the bag of chocolates out from under my desk. I popped one into my mouth…mmmm…delicious! Before I realized it, I ate practically the entire bag. Oh well, as long as I didn't consume more than six grams of carbs…no problem! I proceeded to shove the bag into my knapsack, finished the paper I was working on and then left for the day. Later that night while sitting on the sofa watching television, my stomach rumbled. I didn't think much of it until five minutes later when my stomach rumbled again. This time, the rumble was accompanied by pain…severe pain. Along with the pain was bloating. I felt as if my stomach was going to explode. Next came the cramping. It was bad…very bad. My wife was so worried she asked if I wanted to go to the emergency room. Knowing that I would have to wait for hours, I declined her offer…hoping that whatever was happening to me would stop. After one hour, half a bottle of Pepto and who knows how many Tums…I felt better.

Later, my wife asked me if I had eaten something different or possibly bad earlier in the day. I quickly thought about the bag of chocolates I had consumed. Now I have eaten a lot of chocolate in one sitting before and never had any problems…however, this chocolate was low in carbs…could that be the issue? I retrieved the bag of heavenly chocolate goodness from my knapsack and read the ingredients. Both maltitol and sorbitol were listed. In fact, they were number two and three on the ingredient's list. What in the world is maltitol and sorbitol? I had never heard of such ingredients. Whatever they were, I knew they were not natural so I decided to do a little research.

Beware of chocolates that are made with a sugar substitute!
Beware of chocolates that are made with a sugar substitute!

Introducing Maltitol and Sorbitol - No friends of mine!

Both maltitol and sorbitol are sugar substitutes. In fact, they are known as sugar alcohols. Interesting…but that still didn't solve the mystery as to why I thought I was about to die earlier in the evening. Below is a breakdown of both maltitol and sorbitol. If you continue reading, the cause of my mystery illness will be revealed….I know you can't wait!


As mentioned above, maltitol is a sugar substitute. It has all of the sweetness of regular sugar and nearly identical properties. It is a popular sugar substitute because it has fewer calories and does not promote tooth decay. The only real difference between maltitol and real sugar is the fact that maltitol does not brown when heated. Unlike other sweeteners (such as real sugar) maltitol has a very slow absorption rate. Because of this, EXCESSIVE CONSUMPTION can have a LAXATIVE effect and can also cause gas and or bloating! Did you get that GAS AND BLOATING…not to mention, the runs! GROSS!

Due to the fact that maltitol is very much like sugar (at least it tastes like sugar) food producers tend to use it in large quantities when making "diet" foods and products (for example, bags of delicious chocolates!). Maltitol has been associated with many gastric issues. Many countries, such as Norway, New Zealand and Australia require foods that contain maltitol to be labeled appropriately. In other words…if I lived in Australia, there would have been a warning on the bag of chocolates that I purchased and the warning would have read: Excessive consumption may cause you to poop in your pants, severe stomach cramping and gas so bad your dog will stay as far away from you as possible for fear that they will be blamed for the god-awful smell permeating the room.


Sorbitol is very similar to maltitol. It too is a sugar substitute that tastes very much like sugar. Not only can sorbitol be found in toothpaste and mouthwash, it is also in gel based products. When researching sorbitol, I came across some information that really disturbed me. Just as maltitol, sorbitol can produce a laxative like affect when eaten in large quantities. Great. However, I also learned that because of the strong laxative like affect, sorbitol is used as a non-stimulant laxative in some enemas. In other words…sorbitol stimulates bowel movements and is actually used by doctors and clinics to help people go to the bathroom! Why in the world is this stuff in candy and other foods? Hard to believe!

So what is the moral of the story? Well, there are many, my friends. First of all, if you are on a diet (of any kind) always read the ingredients so that you KNOW what you are putting into your body. I am no longer following the Atkins Diet, however, I have since learned that MANY diet programs sell foods that contain both maltitol and sorbitol. Don't believe me? All you have to do is pick up a Nutri System dessert and you will find either maltitol or sorbitol in the ingredients list. The next time you are in the grocery store be sure to check out the ingredients in most (if not all) of the diet ice cream that is sold. Most likely, you will find either maltitol or sorbitol. As for sugarless gum…well, you can forget about it (at least I have) as ALL sugarless gums sold today contains…you guessed it, maltitol and or sorbitol.

It is important to note that people react differently to maltitol and sorbitol. Obviously, I react strongly and cannot eat anything that contains either one. Even if I chew just one stick of sugarless gum that happens to contain maltitol or sorbitol…I am doomed. If you are one of the lucky people that can digest these sugar substitutes without any problems…good for you. I am jealous. I will simply have to live my life eating chocolates and other sweets in moderation. Trust me, moderation is better than the alternative! After all, nobody likes anal leakage, me included.


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      janetsilvester 8 years ago

      hi there after reading your story ,i now know what my problem is ,for years ive suffered with the symtons that you had , but ive found a choclate that i can eat and it don't affect me its caramac and very yummy ,try one .