A humble bag of gummy bears is at the centre of the latest trending topic in food today – but for all the wrong reasons.
These sugarless Haribo gummy bears – sold in gigantic 5-lb bags for $36.99 – are quite literally causing a stir among Amazon reviewers, who claim the “healthy” treat alternative leads to, in one reviewer’s words, “gastrointestinal Armageddon.”
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And that’s only the beginning. The majority of the product’s customer reviews mirror the sentiment, adding that eating even just a handful caused serious, er, discomfort.
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So what’s up with these gummies?
Well, it all comes down to science.
In order to make these sugar-free gummy bears edible (and judging by the comments, they do actually taste good), the manufactures add lycasin, a sweet-tasting syrup made primarily of maltitol. Maltitol is a sugar alcohol found in nature, but for mass consumer consumption it’s made in labs out of hydrogenated corn syrup.
And, oh, it happens to be a pretty powerful laxative when eaten in large amounts. BINGO!
“It’s an osmotic laxative,” says Anthony Di Pasquale, a Toronto, Ont.-based nutritionist and nutrition instructor at George Brown College. “Which means it draws water into the gut and makes the stool softer.
Di Pasquale adds that maltitol is not in itself harmful – it’s actually found in small amounts in berries. But it’s absorbed very slowly in the gut – more so than regular sugar -- which gives it more time to draw water into your gut, causing diarrhea.
While maltitol is a popular sugar alternative, both for medical and diet reasons, Di Pasquale cautions against using it – for more reasons than just its ability to “cleanse.”
“As a diabetic product, I don’t think it’s really appropriate. It causes almost the same increase in blood sugar as real sugar, so why not just use real sugar? It tastes better, and because it’s sweeter than maltitol, you don’t need to use as much of it.”
And if that's not enough to convince you, spend five minutes reading all 459 reviews of Haribou's "awesome and explosive" gummies.