Maltitol has good digestive tolerance: study

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sugar substitute, Sugar, Nutrition

Maltitol is better tolerated then previous reported, and could be used as a sugar replacer in a wide range of food products - according to new research.

The study, performed using Roquette's SweetPearl ingredient and published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition​, indicated that maltitol can be considered well tolerated by children at up to 15 g/day and could be used to create new sugar free confectionary and food products.

Talking to FoodNavigator, Dr Clémentine Thabuis, nutritional research manager at Roquette Lestrem, noted that further research - studying different food types – need to be performed “in order to investigate the digestive tolerance of maltitol in an ‘everyday diet’.”

“We know that digestive tolerances can change a lot depending on the matrix,”​ said Dr Thabuis. “We performed the study on chocolate as it is a big marketing target for maltitol.”

“There are already sugar free sweets and chewing gum so we need to develop new types of sugar free confectionary,” ​she added.

Offset advantages

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol (polyol) commonly used as a sugar substitute.

Sugar alcohols are low-digestible carbohydrates that provide a lower energy intake than sugars like sucrose, and generally have lower glycemic index (GI) values.

Polyols are already used in the production of sugar free chewing gums, sweets and confectionary due to their lower energy intake and oral health benefits.

However, such advantages are offset by higher levels of digestive discomfort and laxative effects linked to alcohol sugar consumption.

The new study assessed the digestive tolerance of maltitol in children, to investigate the use of maltitol as a sugar free sweetener for children nutrition.

“There have been studies [on digestive tolerance] in adults, but in order to aim at chocolate producers we needed to perform similar studies on children too - To test that their tolerances were good,” ​said Dr. Thabuis.

Good Tolerance

Researchers tested doses of maltitol between five and 15 g per child compared to sucrose chocolate, using a milk chocolate food matrix.

The study does report statistical differences in digestive comfort between maltitol and a sucrose control.

Significantly higher abdominal pain, rumbling, bloating and flatulence were reported in the maltitol children compared with sucrose. However the researchers point out that all digestive threshold scores remained under 3 AU “and can consequently be considered minor.”

The researchers state that 15 grams of maltitol were as well tolerated as five or 10 grams, suggesting that maltitol did not bring digestive discomfort to the children in the study group.

“What are very important are good tolerance thresholds. Previous tests in adults have shown tolerances for maltitol to be quite good, but we wanted to be sure in children,” ​stated Thabuis.

Sugar replacement

Dr. Thabuis told she believes maltitol could make a very good sugar free ingredient, especially in focusing on child nutrition.

Thabuis said maltitol “could [in theory] be used in any application where sugar is used.”

From a technical point of view, it can definitely replace sugar as it has very similar sensory properties and a similar behaviour during manufacture,” ​she added.

Dr Thabuis noted that future work should examine the effects of the food matrix.

“Fibres can really help digestive tolerance, but something like lactitol can be very bad for tolerance – so it really depends what the matrix is,” ​she said.

Source:International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3109/09637481003766812
“Short-term digestive tolerance of chocolate formulated with maltitol in children”
Authors: C. Thabuis, M. Cazaubiel, M. Pichelin, D. Wils, L. Guerin-Deremaux

Related topics: R&D, Cocoa & Sugar

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