Lactitol is a disaccharide belonging to the category of sugar alcohols , used as a sugar substitute in light foods , supplements and various dietary products. Its sweetening power is in fact equal to 40% of that of sugar (sucrose), while its energy density is only 2.4 kilocalories per gram (compared to 4 for sucrose ).
The mildly sweet and clean taste of lactitol lacks the unpleasant metallic aftertaste common to many artificial sweeteners . Thanks also to its characteristics of stability and easy solubility, lactitol is used in many low-calorie food products, such as sugar-free biscuits , chocolate , various sweets, chewingum and sugar substitutes.
Lactitol is not extracted from food , but artificially prepared from milk sugar , by reducing glucose under pressure and at high temperatures (remember that lactose is made up of the union of a glucose molecule with one of galactose ).
Properties and Uses
Unlike the typical disaccharide of milk, lactitol cannot be digested by the lactase of the brush border ; consequently it cannot even be absorbed by the intestinal villi . For this reason, at high doses, lactitol causes osmotic diarrhea and can therefore be used as a laxative .
Lactitol also acts as a prebiotic , decreasing the fecal pH and preventing the proliferation of putrefactive bacterial flora (producing ammonium), in favor of useful bacterial strains, which ferment it by producing, among other things, organic acids absorbable by the intestinal mucosa ( which justifies its not negligible caloric power).
Lactitol can also be used by diabetics , given the very low glycemic index , and is acaryogenic (it does not favor the onset of dental caries ).
At high doses, given the poor digestion and absorption capacity by the body, lactitol – in addition to accelerating the transit of stool and producing a valuable prebiotic action – can cause side effects such as swelling, abdominal cramps , diarrhea and flatulence .