UC Davis: special substance in diet foods may cause abdominal bloating

February 16, 2024  14:35

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found that a special ingredient sorbitol, which is found in diet sweets, gummies, sodas and certain fruits, may be the cause of abdominal bloating. The findings are published in UC Davis.

Sorbitol is an alcohol that tastes sweet, is slowly absorbed by the body and can cause abdominal bloating and diarrhea if consumed in large amounts. It is considered a natural sugar substitute that is derived from starch-containing fruits such as apples and apricots. Sorbitol is also used in the manufacture of diet sweets and sodas.

Scientists told us that if sorbitol cannot naturally break down during digestion - it passes through the small intestine and undergoes fermentation in the colon, a process in which bacteria break down carbohydrates into fatty acids and gas. For this reason, bloating can occur when sorbitol is consumed.

The researchers also sought to learn how to restore the gut's ability to break down sorbitol. To do this, they conducted an experiment involving laboratory mice. Initial tests showed that feeding the mice foods high in saturated fat reduced the amount of oxygen used by the cells lining the intestines. This contributed to a decrease in the number of clostridia intestinal microbes that break down sorbitol.

Subsequent experiments showed that exposure to butyrate, a fatty acid produced by eating foods high in fiber, could protect against bloating and diarrhea. These include whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice), legumes (beans, lentils and chickpeas), fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

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