What are Polyols?

Polyols are relatively underexplored as FODMAPS but are found widely in foods. Polyols do not have associated transport systems in the small intestine and are thought to be absorbed in the epithelium by passive diffusion. Their diffusion depends on:

  • the molecular size of the polyols
  • variation of pore size (as variation in pore size can occur along the small intestine with large pores proximally)
  • and the transit time.

Pore size can also be affected by mucosal disease and is often reduced in coeliac disease. Limited studies reviewing absorption of sorbitol and mannitol have produced considerable variation and its availability for fermentation varies with dose taken. Polyols are present in foods (for example apricots, mushrooms, cauliflower) and also commonly used as artificial sweeteners in sugar free chewing gum, lollies and mints. It is often identifiable by additive numbers on food packaging: Sorbitol (420), Mannitol (421), Maltitol (965), Xylitol (967) and Isomalt (953), along with the mandatory declaration “excessive consumption may have a laxative effect”.