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Because of the saccharin ban, food manufacturers are now using sorbitol as a low-calorie sugar substitute. Although chemically related to sugar, sorbitol is neither broken down nor absorbed by the human body. Furthermore, like saccharin, it does not promote tooth decay, and is therefore also used as a sweetener in chewing gum, breath mints, and certain candies.
Now — a word of warning. According to a letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association, sorbitol can produce severe side effects. During a two hour medical meeting, a physician ate one roll of 12 sorbitol-containing, mint flavored candies. Half an hour later, he experienced swelling and cramping pain in the abdomen, with the passage of excessive gas rectally. During the next few hours, he developed such severe diarrhea that he collapsed and was admitted to hospital. The abdominal pain became so severe that a perforated gastric ulcer was suspected. Fortunately, this proved not to be so, and he recovered in 24 hours.
Because it is not absorbed from the stomach or intestines, sorbitol, in large doses, acts like Epsom salts and pulls water into the intestines from the blood stream. This, in turn, prevents absorption of food, which ferments and produces excessive gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Adults, and especially small children, beware! Read the list of ingredients on candy and gum wrappers. If the product contains sorbitol, take no more than one piece an hour and try to make a roll of 12 pieces last all day.