What is mannitol made from?

If you’re thinking of following a low-calorie or sugar-free diet, you’ve probably heard of a food additive called “mannitol”. It’s often used as a sweetener in candy, chewing gum and other sweets. But what exactly is it made from? In this article we’ll take a closer look at the fascinating story behind mannitol.

A Brief History Of Mannitol

Mannitol was first discovered by German chemist Joseph von Liebig in 1847. He isolated it from manna ash trees (Fraxinus ornus), which are native to southern Europe and western Asia. Manna ash produces sap that crystallizes into droplets on its bark during warm weather conditions.

Native people traditionally collected these drops during summertime, which they believed had medicinal properties for treating constipation, fever, and several digestive problems. Liebig analyzed these crystal drops using chemical techniques available at the time and identified them as mannitol -a white powder composed of hexagonal crystals with honey-like taste- for the first time.

Today however most commercial production of mannitol takes place through synthetic means rather than extraction form manna ash sap.

What Is Mannitol Exactly?

Now that we know where it came from let’s examine more closely what makes up Mannitlol.

What Is The Chemical Composition Of Mannitol

Like glucose or sucrose , mannitlol belongs to an important class of organic compounds known as polyols or sugar alcohols . These compounds have similar structures but different molecular formulas than actual sugars .The empirical formula of mannitlo according to its chemical structure is C6H14O6 referred to melitarose which has six carbon atoms per molecule .

This means that while sugary substances like table sugar consist solely made up primarily carbohydrates or short chains thereof; whereas it comprises hydrogenated variants(carbohydrates whose hydroxyl groups have undergone hydrogenation). Long chains of saccharide units can cause sticky, gooey textures in food, while polyols like mannitol have a unique structure that allows them to interfere less with texture but maintain sweetness.

Polyols can be used as sugar substitutes because they have fewer calories than sugars and are not metabolized in the same way by the body. They’re also generally recognized as safe by regulatory organizations worldwide.

Mannitol Manufacturing Process

As mentioned earlier ,most commercial production of mannitol today takes place through synthetic means rather than extraction form manna ash sap. Below is how it’s synthesized;

Step 1: Glucose

Glucose is usually derived from cornstarch or any other type of starch which contains glucose molecule .

Step 2: Hydrogenation:

After drying off all moisture from Glocose,it undergoes a process called hydrogenation- this occurs when unreactive molecules(usually nitrogen) are purged within an environment that does not allow oxidation.Then,the oxygen-containing -OH group on each sugar unit reacts with hydrogen gas to form hydroxyl groups (-CH2-OH).

It might sound complicated; but let’s think about it another way: basically one sugar molecule (glucose) is sitting there chilling when some industrious scientists comes along and pumps a bunch of electricity into it! Electrons shoot all over the place until eventually enough pop off creating new bonds between hydrogens attached to neighboring oxygens.This makes= hwyroxyl groups.

Hydrogenated glucose cannot take part in glycolysis(the breakdown of carbohydrates for energy )and so cannot be used.[^1]

Step 3 Oxidoreduction

The next step involves treating the product of step two(e.g Sorbitol),with methanol, heating and oxidizing using copper catalysts., this results giving rise to intermediate products including fructose,glyceraldehyde which undergo transformation into mannitol during recrystalization.[^2]

Step 4: Purification

Effectively, impure crude mannitol is obtained as a precipitate after the final reaction. The precipitate is then filtered and washed before being passed through several additional purification steps including ion exchange chromatography to remove remaining compounds e.g copper catalysts or fructose .Only suitable amounts are allowed into the market after approval by regulatory bodies.

Characteristics Of Mannitol

What are some distinguishing properties of Mannitol?

  • No taste, aroma or color; hence it can easily be used in sugar-free gum, diet beverages among other items.
  • Crystalline solid with high melting points around 169°Celsius that nearly claims our souls whenever we try eat it…kidding.
  • Unlike most sugars-it has a low relative molecular weight(i.e <200 Da), making filtration easier when isolating from by-products.Molecular Image below;


In Conclusion,

In conclusion, while manna ash trees were initially thought to produce the first commercial source of this carbohydrate , today’s production mostly depends on industrial synthesis. Glucose forms glucose despite its empirical scarcity but manages quality via purity constraints such as those regulated by USP standards for many synthetic organic chemicals.It complicated chemical process drumrolls,yes,but don’t worry about getting lost in any sauce/stew mixed up language developments here.

As always,simple logic applies; anything more delving deeper than what’s offered remains only appropriate if you’re interested in becoming part of research team contributing toward prospective patents.However there you have it;a layman’s breakdown!

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