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Gastroenterology. 1990 Sep;99(3):717-23.

Digestion and absorption in the human intestine of three sugar alcohols.

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Unité de Recherche sur les Fonctions Intestinales, le Métabolisme et la Nutrition, Hôpital Saint-Lazare, Paris, France.


The digestion and absorption of three sugar alcohols, consumed chronically in three identical daily postprandial doses, were evaluated in six volunteers during three 11-day periods. Each period included a 3-day adaptation period during which sugar alcohol doses were increased, a 4-day equilibration period, a 2-day stool collection period, and a 2-day intubation period. From day 4, the daily administered amounts were either 30 g pure sorbitol, 57 g maltitol containing 30 g sorbitol, or 69 g Lycasin 80/55 (Roquette, Lestrem, France), which is a hydrogenated glucose syrup also containing 30 g sorbitol. The distal ileal output of sugar alcohols and their components was determined by aspiration after a single meal. The mean percentage of sorbitol absorbed in the small intestine was significantly higher in pure sorbitol doses than in those containing maltitol and Lycasin 80/55 (79% +/- 4% vs. 64% +/- 4% and 64% +/- 5%, mean +/- SEM). The mean percentage of total maltitol digested was not different for pure maltitol and maltitol contained in Lycasin 80/55 (90% +/- 2% vs. 86% +/- 2%). Stool excretion of sugar alcohols was negligible, indicating that the sugar alcohols reaching the colon were almost completely digested by the colonic flora. The mean estimated energy values of the sugar alcohols ingested in kcal/g were 3.58 +/- 0.08 for sorbitol, about 3.50 +/- 0.07 for maltitol, and between 3.11 +/- 0.08 and 3.54 +/- 0.08 for Lycasin 80/55. Because the experimental conditions of this study mimicked the usual way of consumption of the three sugar alcohols, little calorie saving can be expected from the chronic consumption of these sugar alcohols in so-called sugar-free products.

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