White, odorless, sweet-tasting powder.
Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol. It has two thirds the calories of sugar, and is not as sweet (60% as sweet as sugar). It is poorly absorbed by the body, so it does not raise insulin levels as much as sugar. It does not promote tooth decay.
Sorbitol and mannitol are isomers, substances with the same chemical formula, but a different shape.
Sorbitol can be described as a glucose molecule with two hydrogens added. The two extra hydrogens are on either side of what used to be the double bond connecting the oxygen to the carbon, which is now a single bond.
This changes the molecule just enough to make it harder for the body to absorb, while still tasting sweet on the tongue.
Sorbitol occurs naturally in fruits and vegetable. Most sorbitol in foods and other products is made from corn syrup.
Sorbitol is used in low calorie candies, and in many foods as both a sweetener and as a humectant (moisture retaining ingredient).
Sorbitol is used as an emollient (skin softener) in soaps.