Chew on This (But Not Too Much): Sorbitol Can Cause Dangerous Weight Loss

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German doctors solved two mysterious cases of rapid – and dangerous – weightloss from diarrhea once they determined that the cause was chewing too muchsugar-free gum containing the artificial sweetener sorbitol.

The doctors were puzzled at the cause of the severe diarrhea that led a21-year-old woman to lose 24 pounds and a 46-year-old man to lose 46 pounds.When they asked both patients about their chewing habits, they discovered thatboth were heavy users of sugar-free gum. Sorbitol in large quantities has beenknown to increase the risk of diarrhea.

They learned that the woman had been chewing 15 to 20 sticks of gum a day, eachstick containing 20 grams of sorbitol. The man was up to 20 sticks a day. Theconsequences were dramatic: both patients visited the bathroom at least 10 timesa day.

Once doctors found the culprit, both patients recovered rapidly. The womandropped to one bowel movement per day and regained 15 pounds over the next year.The man also went to one movement a day and regained 11 pounds of his lost withhalf a year.

Sorbitol rarely shows up in U.S.-made chewing gum or sweets. The preferredartificial sweetener here is aspartame (NutraSweet). The Food and DrugAdministration says that consumption of more than 50 grams a day of sorbitol canlead to diarrhea.

Source: HealthDay, January 2008

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