Sugar-free gum poses a health hazard

 作者:过梢亿     |      日期:2019-03-02 07:14:03
By Lisa Hitchen Chewing too much “sugar-free” gum can lead to severe weight loss and bowel problems, doctors are warning. Many “sugar-free” products such as chewing gum and sweets contain a sweetener called sorbitol. It is a sugar alcohol with around a third fewer calories than sucrose, or table sugar. However, the substance can have laxative effects if taken in large enough amounts – a fact that many people are unaware of because potential side-effects are usually listed in small print on the packaging, say the researchers. The warning comes after Herbert Lochs, a gastroenterologist at Charite Universitatsmedizin in Berlin, Germany, and colleagues were referred two cases of patients with excessive diarrhoea and weight loss. Both had been investigated extensively by other doctors who could find no cause for their conditions. After numerous tests with the first patient, a 21-year-old woman, Lochs measured her stool electrolytes. It appeared that something in the gut was drawing out large amounts of water, which led to the weight loss and diarrhoea. She had up to 12 episodes of diarrhoea a day. When questioned about her diet, the woman admitted to chewing large amounts of gum every day. Each stick contains about 1.25g of sorbitol. The team worked out she was exposing herself to 18-20g of sorbitol per day. The second patient, a 46 year old man, told the team he chewed 20 sticks of gum a day and ate up to 200g of sweets – a consumption of 30g of sorbitol daily. Only relatively small amounts of sorbitol (5 to 20g) are needed to cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach cramps, bloating and gas. Higher doses (20-50g) are linked to malabsorption of nutrients, malnutrition, and substantial weight loss. When both patients began a sorbitol-free diet, their diarrhoea went away and both gained weight. This was not before significant cost to the health service though, notes Professor Lochs. “This could have saved a lot of money if it had been found earlier on,” he says. The study highlights the importance of examining a patient’s diet in cases of unexplained weight loss. Sorbitol is put into many dietetic products for diabetics as an alternative to glucose, adds Lochs. He says that sorbitol might sometimes add to bowel problems, which are associated with diabetes. Diabetes UK points out it does not recommend “diabetic” foods to people with the condition. “Sorbital is often used in foods labelled ‘diabetic’ such as chocolates, sweets, and biscuits. As these foods tend to be ‘treat’ foods and have no sugar some people may think that it’s fine to eat large quantities,” notes Jemma Edwards, a dietitian for the charity. “We don’t recommend these foods because there are no added nutritional benefits and they are often more expensive.” Journal reference: British Medical Journal (DOI: