Why is there a warning about laxative effects on some chewing gums?

Some chewing gum labels may contain a warning about a possible laxative effect. When some bulk sweeteners such as sorbitol and xylitol are consumed at high levels – either in chewing gum or other food products – some consumers may experience a mild laxative effect.

1. What is Sorbitol?

Sorbitol is a sweetener that occurs naturally in a wide variety of fruits. It provides bulk and sweetness with a clean, cool, pleasant taste. It provides one third fewer calories than sugar -- about 2.4 calories per gram. It does not contribute to the formation of dental caries. It may also be useful as an alternative to sugar for people with diabetes, on the advice of their health care providers.

Sorbitol has been affirmed as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is approved for use by the European Union and numerous countries around the world, including Australia, Canada, and Japan.


2. How is Sorbitol made?

It occurs naturally in a wide variety of fruits. Today, it is commercially produced by the hydrogenation of glucose and is available in both liquid and crystalline form.


3. Can Sorbitol have a laxative effect?

Excessive consumption of polyols, such as sorbitol, can have a laxative effect in some individuals. Studies generally indicate that people can consume up to 40 grams of sorbitol per day without experiencing a laxative effect, subject to the individual and other components of his or her diet - a level not approached by typical consumption of sugar-free chewing gum.


4. Can people be intolerant to Sorbitol?

Sorbitol is generally safe for consumption and meets domestic and international food regulations.

It is possible that some people may discover they are intolerant to sorbitol, in the same way that some other people have intolerances to substances such as wheat gluten or lactose. Also, people who are intolerant to fructose may not consume sorbitol, as sorbitol is metabolized into fructose.


5. What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol derived from the pentose sugar xylose. It has a sweetness equal to that of sucrose and is not fermented by plaque bacteria to form acid.


6. Where does Xylitol come from?

Xylitol is a sweetener that occurs naturally. It can be found in low quantities in every day foods such as berries, fruit, vegetables and mushrooms. Other produce such as yellow plums and endives also contain Xylitol.

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