Polyols in the Food and Pharmaceutical Industries: A Technological Odyssey

Polyols, a versatile class of compounds, find extensive applications in both the food and pharmaceutical industries. This article explores the multifaceted role of polyols, focusing on their functions, applications, and technological advantages in these critical sectors.

Polyols in the Food Industry: A Sweet Symphony of Functions

In the realm of the food industry, polyols serve not only as bulk sweeteners but also as crucial players in various technological processes. Traditionally, sucrose, lactose, and starch have held sway as excipients in pharmaceutical products, but polyols, with their unique properties, have emerged as valuable alternatives.

Bulk Sweetener Function: An Artful Blend of Tradition and Innovation

Confectionery, a realm of indulgence and creativity, relies on two primary sweeteners: crystalline sucrose and glucose syrup, the latter adept at controlling or preventing sucrose crystallization. The landscape of sugarless confectionery is diverse, featuring crystalline bulk sweeteners (maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol) and anti-crystallizing syrups (sorbitol, maltitol).

Diverse Confectionery Families: From Cocoa-Based Delights to Flour Confectionery

  1. Cocoa-Based Confectionery: Sucrose reigns supreme in chocolate production. When seeking a substitute, crystalline maltitol emerges as a frontrunner, boasting high sweetness, anhydrous crystalline form, low hygroscopicity, and a high melting point. These properties empower maltitol to seamlessly replace sucrose in high-quality chocolate, maintaining the integrity of traditional manufacturing processes.
  2. Vitreous Hard Products (Hard Candies): The choice of polyols for hard candies depends on the production process and packaging type. Maltitol syrup, such as Lycasin®, proves effective in high-moisture barrier packaging, ensuring a low final moisture content. Blends of Lycasin® with mannitol, isomalt, or lactitol prevent water uptake, preserving the candies’ texture.
  3. Non-Crystallized Soft Products (Jellies): To achieve clear jellies, the inhibition of crystallization is paramount. Non-crystallizable maltitol syrup, like Lycasin®, becomes the optimal solution, offering clarity without special considerations in pectin or gum arabic jellies.
  4. Partly Crystallized Products: The combination of crystallizing polyols and anti-crystallizing agents controls crystallization in chewies and sugarless chewing gums. The use of isomalt, lactitol, mannitol, and maltitol syrup, such as Lycasin® 80/55, ensures the correct combination for these confectionery delights.
  5. Totally Crystallized Products (Coating Properties of Maltitol): The viscosity at saturation becomes a quality determinant in hard coating. Maltitol, with its optimal coating temperature of 25 to 30°C, proves versatile, allowing efficient coating of various products without compromise.
  6. Flour Confectionery: Crystalline maltitol stands out as a total sucrose replacement in sponge cake production. The resulting product mirrors traditional recipes, demonstrating similar viscosity, density, color, volume, and textural characteristics.

Polyols as Technological Wonders: Applications Beyond Sweetness

Beyond their role as sweeteners, polyols in the food industry contribute to the preservation, stabilization, and enhancement of various products.

Humectant and Stabilizer in Baked Goods and Confectionery: Sorbitol, a widely-used polyol, serves as a humectant and stabilizer in biscuits, cakes, pastries, and confectionery. Its inclusion prevents drying, improves taste, and extends the shelf life of products containing hazelnuts, coconut, almonds, and more.

Cryoprotective Agent in Fish Products: In fish products, sorbitol acts as a cryoprotective agent, preventing low-temperature denaturation of protein fibers. Its application in surimi, fish ‘sausage,’ crabmeat analog, and kamaboko showcases its versatility in the preservation process.

Anti-Freeze in Ices, Ice Cream, and Sorbets: Sorbitol’s ability to lower the freezing point of ice enhances the texture of frozen desserts, making them softer and easier to scoop at specific temperatures. It also inhibits the crystallization of other sugars in the product.

Polyols in Pharmaceuticals: Redefining Excipients for Oral Health

Polyols have revolutionized pharmaceutical formulations, serving as excipients that provide technological advantages while being non-cariogenic. Products like sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and Lycasin® 80/55 have found their place in ‘sugar-free’ formulations, aligning with regulatory standards.

Liquid and Crystalline Sorbitol: Liquid sorbitol, with a non-crystallizable nature, finds application as a filler and sweetener in cough syrups, decongestant and antihistamine syrups, multivitamin syrups, and mouthwashes. Crystalline sorbitol, prized for its hardness and cooling effect, serves as a filler, binder, and sweetener in direct compression tablets.

Solid Mannitol: Available in powder and granular forms, solid mannitol proves versatile in tablet and capsule manufacturing, particularly in antacids and multivitamin complexes. Its pyrogen-free variant finds application in large-volume infusions.

Xylitol’s Dental Properties: Renowned for its dental benefits, xylitol acts as a filler and sweetener in gums, hard-boiled candies, cough syrups, and mouthwashes, catering to the increasing emphasis on oral health.

Lycasin® 80/55 in Pharmaceuticals: Non-crystallizable and non-cariogenic, Lycasin® 80/55 finds applications in cough syrups, paracetamol suspensions, vitamin syrups, and medicated confectionery, aligning with evolving consumer preferences for healthier pharmaceutical options.

In conclusion, the journey of polyols in the food and pharmaceutical industries reflects a narrative of innovation, versatility, and adaptability. As these compounds continue to redefine sweetness, preservation, and formulation in diverse products, their role as technological wonders remains pivotal in shaping the future of these dynamic industries.

PolyolsCommercial formSweetnessHygroscopicityRecommended conching temperature (°C)
MannitolAnhydrous0.4Same as sucrose
MaltitolAnhydrous0.9Same as sucrose
Table 1. Sugarless chocolate
PolyolsSpecific propertiesMain applications
Crystalline sorbitolCooling effect, compressibility, cryoprotectiveChewing gum, tablets, surimi
Sorbitol syrupMicrocrystallization in molds, surface crystallization, humectantDeposited hard boiled candies, dragees, biscuits, cakes, pastry
Crystalline mannitolNon-hygroscopicDusting powder, chewing gum, chewy sweets
Maltitol syrupsAnticrystallizing, the plasticity of massecuites, plasticizer, functional substitute for glucose syrupsHard-boiled and chewy sweets, jellies, chewing gum
Crystalline maltitolHigh sweetness, non-hygroscopic, high melting point, crystallizationChocolate, coated chewing gum
Crystalline xylitolHigh sweetness, cooling effect, crystallizationJellies, chewing gum, coated chewing gum
Table 2. Food applications of polyols
PolyolsSpecific propertiesMain applications
Crystalline sorbitolThe cooling effect, compressibility, rapid dissolving, pyrogen-free gradeDirect compression for suckable and chewable tablets; diluent for sachets; rehydration; vehicle for therapeutics
Sorbitol syrupHumectant, bulking agent, pyrogen-free gradeToothpaste, mouthwashes, creams; syrups and liquid medicines; pastilles and lozenges; vehicle for therapeutics; rehydration
Granular mannitolCompressibility,non-hygroscopicDirect compression for suckable, chewable and effervescent tablets; diluent for sachets
Crystalline mannitolGood flowability, high physicochemical stability, pyrogen-free gradeLyophilization carrier; intravenous diuretic
Maltitol syrupAnticrystallizing agent, chemical stability, high sweetening powerSyrups and all oral liquid forms; pastilles and lozenges
Crystalline maltitolHigh sweetening power, high physicochemical stability, molecular weight close to sucrose, good solubilityDiluent for tablets and sachets, coating agent
Crystalline xylitolHigh sweetening power, cooling effect, good solubility, physicochemical stability, pyrogen-free gradeDiluent for tablets and sachets; rehydration, vehicle for therapeutics
Table 3. Pharmaceutical applications of polyols

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