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Sweetener Side Effects: Case Histories

Researchers Cite 2 Patients Who Suffered Severe Weight Loss From Heavy Use of Sorbitol

What's a 'Safe' Amount of Sorbitol?

The FDA requires a warning label on a product with sorbitol if the manufacturer thinks the consumption would exceed 50 grams a day, according to an FDA spokesperson.

But levels under 50 grams of sorbitol daily may cause problems for some people, says Patti Truant, a spokeswoman for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C. In 1999, the center petitioned the FDA to require a better label on sorbitol-containing products, noting that problems such as diarrhea can occur with as few as 10 grams a day of the sweetener.

Sorbitol Manufacturers Respond

The cases reported in BMJ involved excesses, says Chris Perille, a spokesman for the William Wrigley Jr. Company, which makes chewing gum containing sorbitol (including its brands Extra, Orbit, Freedent, and Eclipse).

"To reach the threshold of excessive consumption of sorbitol through use of gum alone [at levels set by the FDA], someone would have to chew close to 50 sticks or 100 pellets of gum daily," he says. In the U.S., he adds, the average per capita gum consumption is just one stick every other day.

The ingredient is safe and effective "when used as directed," adds Tonia Elrod, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble, the manufacturer of Crest toothpaste, which contains sorbitol.

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