Lactitol is a bulk sweetener with a sugar-like taste. Its stability, solubility and reduced calories make it suitable for a variety of low-calorie, low-fat and/or sugar-free foods. Its mild sweet taste makes it ideal for use with low calorie sweeteners.
Lactitol was discovered in 1920 and it was first used in foods in the 1980’s. Lactitol is a disaccharide polyol (sugar alcohol), derived from lactose. As being a unique bulk sweetener with very similar technical and handling properties to those of sucrose, lactitol is very suitable to replace sucrose on a 1 : 1 basis in calorie-controlled foods.
Facts About Lactitol
- Bulk sweetener with a clean sweet taste
- Made from lactose
- Useful in formulating a variety of low-calorie, low-fat and sugar-free foods
- Provides only 2 calories per gram
- Promotes a healthy colonic micro flora
- Does not cause dental caries
- Does not increase blood glucose or insulin levels
Benefits of Lactitol
Low in Calories – Lactitol is not metabolized like a typical carbohydrate. Unlike the metabolism of lactose, lactitol is not hydrolyzed by lactase. It is neither hydrolyzed nor absorbed in the small intestine. Lactitol is metabolized by bacteria in the large intestine, where it is converted into biomass, organic acids, carbon dioxide and a small amount of hydrogen. The organic acids are further metabolized resulting in a caloric contribution of 2 calories per gram (carbohydrates generally have about 4 calories per gram). The FDA has accepted this caloric value for labeling purposes in the U.S. The EU Nutrition Labeling Directive states that polyols, including lactitol, have a caloric value of 2.4 calories per gram.
Low Glycemic and Insulinemic Response – As a sweetening ingredient, lactitol has a low glycemic index and does not induce an increase in blood glucose or insulin levels after consumption. Control of blood glucose, lipids and weight are the three major goals in diabetes management today. Not just people with diabetes can use low GI foods comprising lactitol to replace sugar to give them a wider variety of low-calorie and sugar-free choices in their diabetic diet. Consuming low GI foods could also provide health benefits to people who are health conscious. However, people should understand that foods sweetened with lactitol contain other ingredients that contribute calories and other nutrients. These must be considered in meal planning.
Improving Gut Health – Since lactitol can pass the upper gastrointestinal tract without being hydrolyzed and absorbed, it is capable of promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. The intestinal bacteria ferment lactitol, resulting in the establishment of an acidic environment in the colon due to the formation of short chain fatty acids. At these acidic conditions, the beneficial bacteria, better known as probiotics, grow in preference over disease causing organisms or pathogens. As excellent prebiotic ingredient, lactitol can help to keep your colonic microflora healthy.
Does Not Cause Dental Caries – Lactitol is not metabolized by oral bacteria, which break down sugars and starches to release acids that may lead to cavities or erode tooth enamel. As tooth-friendly ingredient, lactitol does not cause dental caries. The American Dental Association has recognized the usefulness of polyols, including lactitol, as alternatives to sugars and as part of a comprehensive program including proper dental hygiene. The FDA has approved the use of a “does not promote tooth decay” health claim in labeling for sugar-free foods that contain polyols, including lactitol. Polyol sweetener products may be labeled safe for teeth in other parts of the world.
Multiple Ingredient Approach to Calorie Control
Lactitol is a versatile ingredient that allows food manufacturers to develop new foods that both taste good and are lower in calories, fat and/or sugar. Lactitol’s qualities as a bulk sweetener make it optimal to blend with low-calorie sweeteners that are several hundred times sweeter than sucrose (but do not provide the necessary volume). Lactitol can also be used with other bulk sweeteners or polyols. Blending two or more polyols gives food manufacturers the flexibility to take advantage of each sweetener’s individual attributes. Lactitol offers food manufacturers the beneficial characteristics of mild sweetness, stability, solubility, bulk and reduced calories.