Mannitol is a sugar alcohol (polyol). It has a good flavor with little or no after taste.

It has 1.6 calories per gram, 40% the value of sugar but it has only 50% of the sweetness. So it is not really useful as part of a calorie controlled diet, as it has 80% the calories of sugar for the same sweetness. It does, however, have a very low glycemic index (It is only 2, sugar is 65) and consequently it is very suitable for diabetics.

It is nonhygroscopic, meaning it does not absorb moisture from the atmosphere. This makes it very suitable as a hard coating for candy, and gives it certain desirable qualities in chocolate flavour coatings. Like other sugar alcohols it has a laxative effect, and in fact is used for this purpose in certain medicines, especially for children. It is not recommended to consume more than 20 gm per day.

Not used as a sweetener on it's own. But it has considerable uses in the pharmaceutical industry as a drug in it's own right, and as a coating for pills and tablets. It has very beneficial applications in medicine and is also used in the food industry.

It has a very low glycemic index and this makes it suitable as part of a diabetic diet. Like all sugar alcohols it is not metabolized by bacteria in the mouth and so it does not contribute to tooth decay. It also helps the appearance, shelf life and texture of food products in the absence of sugar. It has a long list of medical applications including:
1. Treatment for head trauma.
2. Treatment for renal failure.
3. Treatment of cystic fibrosis.
4. As a laxative for children.
5. As a coating and binder for pills and tablets.

It has a laxative effect. Also some people can be allergic to it. It occurs naturally in plants, but in small amounts. So care should be taken to avoid high consumption. Additionally, because it has powerful medical effects on the body, large doses can be particularly serious, leading to renal failure and even heart failure. This does not mean that small quantities are harmful in any way, but that it should be treated as a medicine and given the same respect. Side effects to excessive consumption can include nausea, cramps, and excessive urination. Allergic reactions can occasionally occur and can include rashes or dizziness. It is similar in this regards to most medications. See: FDA report.

Safety Guidelines:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's regulation for mannitol requires the following label statement for foods whose reasonably foreseeable consumption may result in the daily ingestion of 20 grams of mannitol: "Excess consumption may have a laxative effect."

CSPI (US) Recommendation

The recommendation issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (US) for this substance is - CUT BACK

Most Mannitol commercially available is synthesized from Fructose or Glucose Syrup.

Sold As:
Not usually sold on its own, though a powdered form is available on Amazon. Cargill make a product called Mannidex and Roquette is a world leader in commercial production.

How Expensive?
On the commodity market it is one of the more expensive sugar alcohols, costing about 3.4 times the price of sugar for the same unit of sweetness.

It sells on the internet for about $15 for 250gm or about $28 dollars per pound.

Mannitol Market Share:
In 2012 it  sold approx 0.05 million tonnes equivalent out of a total world market of approx 188 million tonnes. (Sugar was about 155 million tonnes) It has a minuscule share of the market. 

Interesting facts:
Despite the name it contains no alcohol - it is, like Xylitol, a polyol. It produces a cooling effect in the mouth, which makes it particularly suitable for chewing gum and creates a refreshing effect. It is used as a dusting powder for chewing gum.

It is also used as a coating for pills. It is also commonly used as an illicit cutting agent with drugs such as heroin and cocaine. It increases the amount of fluid excreted by the kidneys, and this is a side effect that is beneficial in the treatment of certain conditions.

It is a natural substance, being found in certain mushrooms and algae. However all that is available commercially is hydrogenated from glucose or fructose syrup.

Unlike Xylitol it is not toxic to dogs, it is actually used by Veterinarians for certain treatments.

Approved in the USA gras. Approved in the EU as E421.

Conclusions for Mannitol

Important sugar alcohol that has use in a large number of medical applications. It is beneficial in the production of many processed foods and confectionery due to its unique properties. However it is of limited use as a sugar substitute. One spoon of sugar contains 16 calories. To achieve the same sweetness it would be necessary to consume 13 calories of Mannitol, so there is very little saving. However it has a very low glycemic index and is suitable for diabetics. It can have a laxative effect if large amounts are ingested.

Name Calories / Gram Sweetness Index Glycemic Index Calories / Spoon-Equiv
Mannitol 1.6 0.5 2 13

Taste: -------- Good
Aftertaste: ---- No
Concerns: ----- Only in high doses

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