Can gummy bears help keep you regular?

This article, entitled "Can gummy bears help keep you regular?" comes from partner site Best Food Facts.

If you’ve been browsing through the Amazon website, you may have come across some interesting products and reviews. While on a quest to satisfy a craving, one of our staffers noticed some rather peculiar reviews of a product, some of which read like fictional short stories, including an undesirable laxative-like effect from consumption of the product. Is this true? Could it be that these sweet little bears can cause tummy troubles? What’s in these bears that would create such an unpleasant outcome? Not feeling brave enough to satisfy her craving and suffer the potential consequences, she thought it would be easier to ask our Best Food Facts registered dietitian Sarah Downs for the truth about these sweet treats.

What is in these gummy bears that could cause gastrointestinal (GI) distress?

Sarah Downs, RD: These particular gummy bears contain lycasin, which is the brand name for maltitol, a sugar alcohol commonly found in syrups and is what makes them “sugar-free.” Sugar alcohols (typically found in sugar-free gums and candy — the most common are sorbitol and xylitol and as a class are called polyols) commonly cause diarrhea if consumed in excess because they are not properly absorbed in the intestines.

Why does this happen?

Sarah Downs, RD: Excess intake of sugar alcohols can be partially fermented by colonic bacteria and contribute to fecal bulk…aka poop and lots of it. Some polyols (the class sugar alcohols are in) may be classified as functional fibers for that reason. Functional fibers are isolated, non-digestible forms of carbohydrate that have been extracted from starchy foods or manufactured from starches or sugars. They may have some of the benefits of naturally occurring dietary fiber, such as helping to prevent constipation or lowering blood glucose levels after meals.

Sugar alcohols are also metabolized and absorbed to glucose more slowly than simple sugars — another reason why they may cause tummy troubles. In fact, any products whose foreseeable consumption may result in a daily ingestion of 50 grams of sugar alcohols must bear (pun intended) the labeling statement “excess consumption may have a laxative effect.”

Are these safe to eat?

Sarah Downs, RD: While excessive intake of laxatives of any sort are not a great idea because they can lead to dehydration, eating a few gummy bears every now and then probably won’t do you or your GI system any harm. However, it may be wise to eat a handful instead of the whole bag if they contain sugar alcohols.

Anything else?

Sarah Downs, RD: Other fun gummy bear tidbits: lots of fitness professionals and runners use gummy bears during training for a quick and easy-to-digest carbohydrate for fuel and energy. Just be careful not to overdo it — your intestines will thank you later.

The bottom line is that you can avoid hibernating in the restroom by satisfying your craving for gummy bears in moderation. Happy snacking!

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Best Food Facts
Best Food Facts gives you the opportunity to connect with food system experts around the country who have done the research, checked their work and want to share the results.

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