Meta-analysis backs lactitol sweetener for constipation relief

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Researchers from DuPont Health & Nutrition performed the meta-analysis to weigh up the evidence for lactitol.
Researchers from DuPont Health & Nutrition performed the meta-analysis to weigh up the evidence for lactitol.

Related tags Clinical trial Randomized controlled trial

Supplementation with the bulk sweetener ingredient lactitol could be of benefit for those with adult constipation, according to data from a new meta-analysis.

The review of current evidence, published in Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology​, analysed data from 11 clinical studies investigating lactitol supplementation on adult constipation.

Led by researchers from DuPont Health & Nutrition, which manufacturers its own brand of lactitol under the OsmoAid brand, the team analysed data from 663 participants, finding that supplementation with the osmotic laxative and bulk sweetener is well tolerated and improves symptoms of adult constipation.

“The study documents what has long been suspected – that lactitol relieves the symptoms of constipation. Importantly, it shows that lactitol is very well tolerated,"​ said Arthur Ouwehand, research manager at DuPont Nutrition & Health and one of the scientists behind the study.

According to the study: “The efficacy and tolerance of lactitol and lactulose are similar, with a trend for more frequent stools with lactitol.”

However, the team noted that ‘limited evidence’ suggests lactitol is superior to stimulant laxatives and placebo for relieving constipation symptoms.

“We know that current treatment options provide insufficient relief for around half of patients. While the efficacy of a daily dose of 10-20g lactitol has been proven, there is still a need for more research into the effects of long-term lactitol use,”​ commented DuPont Scientist Julia Tennilä, who also worked on the meta-analysis. 

Study details

The team noted that constipation was a common complaint in adults, adding that lactitol is an osmotic disaccharide laxative that has been suggested to increase faecal volume and stimulate peristalsis.

“In this paper, we present the first meta-analysis on the efficacy and tolerance of lactitol for adult constipation,”​ they said.

The DuPont led scientists found 11 clinical trials on pre- to post-treatment changes in stool frequency and consistency with lactitol among all studies, as well as a comparison of efficacy and tolerance outcomes in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of lactitol versus lactulose.

These included five single-arm studies, four RCTs comparing lactitol with lactulose, one RCT comparing lactitol with placebo, and one non-randomised controlled trial comparing lactitol with stimulant laxatives.

They reported that weekly stool frequency was significantly increased with lactitol compared with baseline, while stool consistency also improved over the supplementation period with lactitol.

“In RCTs of lactitol versus lactulose, lactitol was slightly more effective than lactulose in increasing weekly stool frequency, however no statistically significant differences between lactitol and lactulose were identified in any other efficacy or tolerance outcome.

“Lactitol demonstrated favourable efficacy and tolerance in individual studies when compared to stimulant laxatives and placebo,”​ they added.

The DuPont researchers said they hope the findings will encourage further research into the use of lactitol as a constipation treatment.

Source: Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology
Issue 7, Pages 241-248, doi: 10.2147/CEG.S58952
“Efficacy and tolerance of lactitol supplementation for adult constipation: a systematic review and meta-analysis”
Authors: Miller LE, Tennilä J, Ouwehand AC.

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