Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Sorbitol Bad For You?

Also Known As: glucitol



Short answer

Sorbitol is not harmful is moderation. In fact, it is often used as a good sugar substitute for diabetics.



Long answer

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol used in foods as an artificial sweetener. It is commonly found in sweets, candy, and jams marketed for diabetics, dried fruit, some fresh fruits, sugar-free gum, diet drinks and some medications. Medications include sorbitol to improve the taste and as a bulking agent. Of these products, jam, sweets, candy and dried fruit contain the most sorbitol.

In small amounts, sorbitol gives little in the way of side effects. The problems typically begin at doses greater than 5 grams and can include intestinal pain, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea. A dose of 20 grams or more is well documented as a laxative dose. Consuming sugar alcohols long-term can also lead to weight gain as they contain carbohydrates and fat, and therefore calories. This is something to keep in mind if you consume sorbitol as a diabetic since carbohydrates will affect your blood sugar levels. The effects on blood sugar and insulin from sorbitol, however, are much less than that of sugar.

The use of sugar alcohols in chewing gum and toothpaste in interesting. They taste sweet so we assume they are probably bad for teeth just like sugar, but that’s not actually the case. Sorbitol has been found to have protective effects against tooth decay and the development of dental caries (cavities).

Another health benefit of sugar alcohol includes improving gut bacteria balance. In the gut, sorbitol and other sugar alcohols act as prebiotics feeding the good bacteria in the gut. This can improve digestion and brain health by boosting the production of serotonin.

You should be aware that sorbitol can interact with some medications negatively. It's generally recommended that you avoid sorbitol if you use a potassium binders or have trouble managing your potassium blood levels. Mixing sorbitol with this type or medication can cause kidney or intestinal damage.

Possible short-term side effects

  • intestinal pain
  • bloating
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • can interact with potassium binding medications

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain

Commonly found in

  • candy and jams marketed for diabetics
  • dried fruit
  • sugar-free gum
  • diet drinks
  • some medications


  • helps prevent tooth decay and cavities
  • improves digestion
  • increases serotonin production by balancing the gut bacteria
  • good sugar alternative for diabetics

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS
Published on: 08-21-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS
Published on: 08-21-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Random Page

Check These Out!