Difference Between Sorbitol and Mannitol


  • sorbitol and mannitol
  • sorbitol and mannitol structure
  • mannitol or sorbitol
  • Mannitol is an isomer of sorbitol. These two sugar alcohols differ from each other according to the orientation of the hydroxyl group that is attached to the second carbon atom of the sugar molecule. We can obtain mannitol via the reduction of mannose sugar. However, the industrial-scale synthesis of mannitol is via the hydrogenation of fructose. Moreover, some organisms produce mannitol as a source of energy, e.g. bacteria, fungi, algae, lichens, etc. In addition, we can directly extract mannitol from its natural sources such as seaweed.

    What is the Difference Between Sorbitol and Mannitol?

    Sorbitol and mannitol are structural isomers. The key difference between sorbitol and mannitol is that the hydroxyl group at the second carbon atom of sorbitol Fischer projection is coming out of the plane, whereas in mannitol, the hydroxyl group at the second carbon atom of mannitol is going behind the plane in its Fischer projection. We can find sorbitol as a naturally occurring compound; e.g. in apple, pears, peaches, etc. We mostly obtain sorbitol from potato starch. Some organisms produce mannitol as a source of energy, e.g. bacteria, fungi, algae, lichens, etc. Below infographic tabulates the differences between sorbitol and mannitol.
    Difference Between Sorbitol and Mannitol in Tabular Form

    Summary – Sorbitol vs Mannitol

    Sorbitol and mannitol are structural isomers. The key difference between sorbitol and mannitol is that the hydroxyl group at the second carbon atom of sorbitol Fischer projection is coming out of the plane, whereas in mannitol, the hydroxyl group at the second carbon atom of mannitol is going behind the plane in its Fischer projection.
    Reference:
    1. “D-Sorbitol.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Available here. 2. “Sorbitol.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Feb. 2020, Available here. 3. “Mannitol.” DrugBank, Available here.
    Image Courtesy:
    1. “D-sorbitol” By Mrgreen71 – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia 2. “Mannitol structure” By Edgar181 – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

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