Mannitol is widespread in nature, being present in the fruit, leaves and other parts of various plants. Strawberries, celery, onions, pumpkins and mushrooms are particularly good sources.

Commercially, mannitol is manufactured from fructose. Today, the source of fructose is cornstarch. Prior to the commercialization of starch hydrolysis, mannitol was produced from the fructose component of invert sugar. During hydrogenation (hydrogen addition), the fructose molecule rearranges to the sugar mannose. That is why this sugar alcohol is called mannitol.

Mannitol is about 60% as sweet as sucrose, and is considered to have 1.6 calories per gram. The Food and Drug Administration concurs with this caloric value.

While its principal use is pharmaceutical applications, FDA regulations require that any mannitol-containing foods whose consumption would add 20 grams (less than 3/4 of an ounce) of mannitol to a person’s diet must be labeled with the statement, “Excess consumption may have a laxative effect.”

Mannitol is used in hard and soft candies, flavored jam and jelly spreads, confections and frostings, chewing gum and cough drops. The maximum amount of mannitol permitted in each of these products is regulated by FDA.

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