Lactitol, a polyol (sugar alcohol), is currently used as a bulk sweetener in calorie-controlled foods. Discovered in 1920, it was first used in foods in the 1980's. Lactitol has a clean sweet taste that closely resembles the taste profile of sucrose. It has only 40 percent of sucrose's sweetening power. This mild sweetness makes it an ideal bulk sweetener to partner with low-calorie sweeteners, such as acesulfame K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose. Lactitol is produced by two manufacturers. DANISCO SWEETENERS markets lactitol in both anhydrous and monohydrate forms and PURAC BIOCHEM markets several forms of lactitol under the trade name LACTY®.

Due to its stability, solubility and similar taste to sucrose, lactitol can be used in a variety of low-calorie, low-fat and/or sugar-free foods such as ice cream, chocolate, hard and soft candies, baked goods, sugar reduced preserves, chewing gums and sugar substitutes. Lactitol is manufactured by reducing the glucose part of the disaccharide lactose. Unlike the metabolism of lactose, lactitol is not hydrolyzed by lactase. It is neither hydrolyzed nor absorbed in the small intestine. Lactitol is metabolized by bacteria in the large intestine, where it is converted into biomass, organic acids, carbon dioxide and a small amount of hydrogen. The organic acids are further metabolized resulting in a caloric contribution of 2 calories per gram (carbohydrates generally have about 4 calories per gram).

A GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) affirmation petition submitted by PURAC biochem has been accepted for filing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This allows manufacturers to produce and sell foods with lactitol in the United States. Internationally, it is approved for use in many countries, including the European Union (EU), Canada, Japan, Israel and Switzerland.

Benefits of Lactitol

Sweet and clean taste: Lactitol has a clean sweet, sugar-like taste with no aftertaste. The relative sweetness of lactitol rises as its concentration in a food is increased. Its mild sweet taste allows other flavors to be clearly perceived. Lactitol is a white crystalline powder.

High quality low-calorie foods: Lactitol's many attributes as a bulk sweetener with mild sweetness make it a versatile ingredient for high quality low-calorie, low-fat and sugar-free foods. Lactitol is not hygroscopic, meaning it will not absorb moisture into products, will maintain crispness and extend the shelf life of cookies and chewing gum. It also has similar solubility to glucose, is stable in acid and alkaline conditions and remains stable under the high temperatures of food processing. Due to lactitol's mild sweetness profile, it can be paired with low-calorie sweeteners commonly used in today's low-calorie, sugar-free foods (e.g. acesulfame K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose).

Low in calories: Lactitol is not metabolized like a typical carbohydrate (or like sugar) and therefore does not contribute the usual 4 calories per gram. Lactitol is metabolized in the large intestine and yields, according to tests, only 2 calories per gram. This value has been accepted for labeling purposes in the U.S. by the FDA. The EU Nutrition Labeling Directive states that all sugar alcohols, including lactitol, have a caloric value of 2.4 calories per gram.

Improving gut health: Lactitol is fermented in the colon and consequently has beneficial effects on the colonic microflora. A reduction in the pH of the colon, along with an increase in probiotic bacteria and a significant reduction in potential pathogens emphasizes the beneficial effects of lactitol. In essence, lactitol functions as a prebiotic.

Facts About Lactitol

  • Bulk sweetener which can be blended with low-calorie sweeteners (e.g., acesulfame K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose) and/or other polyols (e.g., sorbitol, xylitol)
  • Clean and mild sweet taste with no aftertaste
  • Reduced-calorie sweetener with 2 calories per gram
  • Potential use in a variety of low-calorie, low-fat and sugar-free foods
  • Beneficial for people with diabetes because it does not raise blood glucose or insulin levels
  • Does not contribute to the formation of dental caries
  • Functions as a prebiotic

Beneficial to People With Diabetes

As a sweetening ingredient, lactitol has a low glycemic index, does not induce an increase in blood glucose or insulin levels and contributes half the calories of most other carbohydrates (2 calories per gram). Control of blood glucose, lipids and weight are the three major goals in diabetes management today. Foods using lactitol to replace sugar can be used by people with diabetes, giving them a wider variety of low-calorie and sugar-free choices. However, people should understand that foods sweetened with lactitol contain other ingredients that contribute calories and other nutrients. These must be considered in meal planning.

Does Not Cause Dental Caries

Lactitol is not metabolized by oral bacteria which break down sugars and starches to release acids that may lead to cavities or erode tooth enamel. The usefulness of polyols, including lactitol, as alternatives to sugars and as part of a comprehensive program including proper dental hygiene has been recognized by the American Dental Association. The FDA has approved the use of a "does not promote tooth decay" health claim in labeling for sugar-free foods that contain polyols, including lactitol.


The safety of lactitol as a food additive has been substantiated by numerous animal and human studies. Safety studies in experimental animals include long-term feeding studies at high dietary levels for 2 1/2 years in rats and for 2 years in mice.

The safety research on lactitol has been reviewed by several international authoritative bodies. In April 1983, the World Health Organization's Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) reviewed the scientific data on lactitol and allocated an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of "not specified" to lactitol. JECFA's decisions are often adopted by many small countries, which do not have their own agencies to review food additive safety. In 1984, the Scientific Committee on Food of the European Union evaluated lactitol and stated that consumption of 20 grams per day of polyols, including lactitol, is unlikely to cause undesirable laxative symptoms. The Committee allocated lactitol an ADI "not specified." ADI, expressed in terms of body weight, is the amount of a food additive that can be consumed daily over a lifetime without risk. An ADI "not specified" is the safest category in which JECFA can place a food additive.

In the United States, a GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) affirmation petition for the use of lactitol in chewing gum, hard and soft candy and frozen dairy desserts was accepted for filing by the Food and Drug Administration in September 1993. Once a GRAS affirmation petition has been accepted for filing, food manufacturers can use the ingredient in the applications specified in the petition.

Multiple Ingredient Approach to Calorie Control

Today, more Americans are striving to maintain a healthy lifestyle by consuming less calories and fat. To achieve today's nutrition and health goals, Americans are continually searching for new calorie-controlled foods and beverages. Good taste remains a vital factor in consumer acceptance of new healthier foods.

Lactitol is a novel ingredient that allows food manufacturers to develop new foods that both taste good and are lower in calories, fat and/or sugar. Lactitol's qualities as a bulk sweetener make it optimal to blend with low-calorie sweeteners that are several hundred times sweeter than sucrose (but do not provide the necessary volume). Lactitol can also be used with other bulk sweeteners or polyols. Blending two or more polyols gives food manufacturers the flexibility to take advantage of each sweetener's individual attributes. Lactitol offers food manufacturers the beneficial characteristics of mild sweetness, stability, solubility, bulk and reduced calories.


Lactitol's unique attributes make it a versatile reduced-calorie sweetener for a wide variety of food applications from baked goods to hard and soft candy and frozen dairy desserts. With an ever growing focus on healthier eating, the demand for low-calorie foods is rising. With the relatively new introduction of lactitol, many innovative products are on the horizon.

[ More information about lactitol ]


European Economic Community Council (EEC). 1990. Directive on food labeling. Off. J. Eur. Communities No. L 276/40 (Oct.6).

Grenby, T.H., Phillips, A., Mistry, M.: Studies of the dental properties of lactitol compared with five other bulk sweeteners in vitro. Caries Research. 23:315-319, 1989.

Grenby, T.H., Phillips, A.: Dental and metabolic observations on lactitol in laboratory rats. British Journal of Nutrition. 61:17-24, 1989.

Grenby, T.H., Desai, T.: A trial of lactitol in sweets and its effects on human dental plaque. British Dental Journal. 164:383-387, 1988.

Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, IPCS Toxicological evaluation of certain food additives and contaminants: Lactitol, 27th report Geneva, WHO Food Additives Series, 1983, pp.82-94

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. PURAC biochem b.v.; Filing of petition for affirmation of GRAS status (lactitol) Federal Register, Vol. 58 No.174:47746, 1993

Van Es, A.J.H., de Groot, L., Vogt, J.E.: Energy balances of eight volunteers fed on diets supplemented with either lactitol or saccharose. British Journal of Nutrition. 56:545-554, 1986.

van Velthuijsen, J.A., Blankers, I.H.: Lactitol: A new reduced-calorie sweetener. In: Alternative Sweeteners (2ed.), L.O. Nabors & R.C. Gelardi eds., Marcel Dekker, Inc., N.Y., 1991.

Learn more about