Digestion and absorption of sorbitol, maltitol and isomalt from the small bowel. A study in ileostomy subjects

Eur J Clin Nutr. 1994 Nov;48(11):768-75.


Objective: To quantify small bowel digestion and absorption of sorbitol, isomalt and maltitol in ileostomy patients and estimate the metabolizable energy.

Subjects: Study A: Nine ileostomy patients, under a constant controlled diet, ate during three consecutive days 2 milk chocolate bars per day, containing 2 x 15 g of polyol, each day with another polyol in random order. The first bar was taken 30 min after breakfast, and the second bar, 7 h after breakfast. Effluents were recovered during the whole study. Study B: 5, 10 or 20 g of sorbitol or isomalt were consumed each day in a drink during two 3-day periods by two ileostomy subjects. The recovery in the ileal effluent was measured over 24 h.

Results: Study A: Carbohydrate recovery in ileostomy effluent was 26.8 +/- 2.8% (mean+SEM) for sorbitol, 24.8 + 5.7% for maltitol (2/3 as sorbitol) and 40.0 +/- 0.7% for isomalt (1/3 being sorbitol and mannitol). Ileal excretion, compared with a day without polyol, was compared in 4 subjects. The total volume excreted, as well as dry matter increased after polyol consumption. When taking this extra loss into account, the metabolizable energy value of the polyols for 2 x 15 g intake were: sorbitol, 12 kJ/g (2.8 kcal/g); maltitol, 13 kJ/g (3.1 kcal/g); isomalt, 9 kJ/g (2.1 kcal/g). Study B: The level of digestion and absorption of both sugar alcohols was dose dependent.

Conclusions: These results indicate that sorbitol, maltitol and isomalt are rather extensively absorbed, but the digestibility of the other nutrients is also reduced, due to the osmotic load caused by the polyols in the small intestine. There are evidences of a dose dependency of the energy value of the polyols.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Digestion
  • Disaccharides / pharmacokinetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ileostomy
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Maltose / analogs & derivatives*
  • Maltose / pharmacokinetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Sorbitol / pharmacokinetics*
  • Sugar Alcohols / pharmacokinetics*


  • Disaccharides
  • Sugar Alcohols
  • Sorbitol
  • Palatinit
  • Maltose
  • maltitol