Sorbitol and the Diabetic
by N J Howell
Update on Sorbitol, 1/25/2013: This is an update to an article I posted on sorbitol side effects as part of my hidden MSG series, about excitotoxins in our foods.
Sorbitol and the Diabetic:
If you are diabetic, your doctor has no doubt weaned you off sugar and onto some type of artificial sweetener. If the sweetener you regularly use contains sorbitol, you may be creating a potential health issue.
It turns out that too much sorbitol in the system has been linked with certain diabetes-related complications including diabetic neuropathy and diabetic retinopathy.
The link has to do with how long it takes sorbitol to actually exit your body once you consume it. If you regularly eat or drink products containing sorbitol, it can lead to a situation where the body speeds up it's production of glucose. Quite bluntly, the diabetic who consumes too much sorbitol risks damage to their eyes and kidneys as well as possible nerve damage.
Sorbitol increases glucose production for everyone who uses it but in the diabetic, the increase is higher and more dangerous. As glucose levels get higher and higher, you may begin to lose precious nutrients your body needs to maintain health and wellness. To make matters worse, sorbitol is not used by the body, so it takes a long time for the body to rid itself of the sugar molecule.
I've noticed more and more sugarfree products targeting diabetics contain sorbitol. It is even an ingredient in supplements. I found it in a supplement I wanted to take. I called the manufacturer to ask why an artificial sweetener was in something I wasn't even going to taste, swallowing a tablet. They said something about sorbitol enhancing some property of another ingredient but it made no sense to me at all. Sorbitol is an unnatural substance and the body can't use it so what could it be enhancing?
Cutting Back on Sorbitol: If you want to cut down on sorbitol, you must become an avid label reader. In general, expect to see it on foods from Murray, Estee and Bernard Food Industries. I'd suggest discussing a switch to stevia or organic agave (make sure it's agave and not fancified fructose syrup). If you plan to continue consuming sorbitol, taking extra vitamin C may help they body detox it faster and better.
If you are diabetic, you may find more helpful information on the American Diabetes Services website. They had an article linking sorbitol and diabetes but it seems to have since been removed or relocated. I could not find it. They do still have information covering theunderstanding sugar alcohols. In the article that used to be there, I saw reference to an enzyme in the body that is affected by sorbitol consumption and it is the enzyme that converts glucose into sorbitol. In the diabetic this happens to a far great degree when taking products containing sorbitol and can result in diabetic complications due to the eventual depletion of esssential nutrients. Sorbitol can contribute to body swelling and other serious complications. Please read more on the American Diabetes Website.
There is more on maintaining wellness with this health challenge in our diabetes articles section of the Wellness Library, including articles addressing retinopathy, neuropathy and other complications diabetics may face.
Health Care Disclaimer: Healthy options for sweetening your foods include stevia or organic agave nectar (careful, some labeled agave are actually just high fructose corn syrup). The FDA still maintains that consumption of sorbitol does not present a health threat. Do your homework and see what you think. For me, there is absolutely no question that my body doesn't want sorbitol, even in small amounts.