What is Erythritol?
Erythritol represents a calorie-free sugar substitute that can be used as a replacement for sugar.
Erythritol is a polyol (sugar alcohol) and it can be obtained from a couple of fermented foods or fruits. Usually erythritol is man-made and obtained from cornstarch.
Labeled to be 70-80% as sweet as regular sugar, it comes with a mild taste. It is used by those that do not fancy the highly sweet flavor of artificial sweeteners.
Erythritol is officially certified as sugar alcohol because of its chemical composition. Keep in mind that this isn`t the same kind of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages (named ethyl-alcohol).
The molecular structure of Erythritol permits the body to absorb it, without metabolizing or breaking it down. This is the main reason why it doesn`t have any calories. The standard sugar comes with 4 calories per gram.
How safe is Erythritol
Erythritol seem to be safe to consume. Even though it does not cause serious side effects, ingesting too much erythritol can lead to digestive problems, as it is revealed up next.
Some research was done on animals about its toxicity and side effects on metabolism. And after long-term administration of Erythritol, no notable side effects were discovered.
Yet as it happens with almost all sugar alcohols, erythritol can lead to digestive problems if consumed in large amounts. It seems that because of its chemical structure, the body can`t digest properly. Erythritol travels through the digestive system, without being processed until it reached the colon.
Erythritol is fermented by the bacteria present in the colon, resulting in gas. Hence, ingesting high quantities of sugar alcohols can lead to bloating and digestive problems. These sugars are found under the fiber category ‘FODMAPs’.
But erythritol stands out from other sugar alcohols as it is absorbed into the bloodstream prior to ending up in the colon.
It travels with blood until it is eliminated unchanged in the urine. Up to 90% of erythritol is eliminated unchanged in this manner.
Is Erythritol beneficial for our health?
Despite its main use as a sugar alternative, erythritol can provide some health benefits.
- Dental and oral health improvement
Regular sugar can lead to oral health problems. Which is why several food products or toothpastes add alternative sugars to diminish the risk of developing either cavities or tooth decay.
But, research about erythritol and its effects on oral hygiene, reveal varied outcomes.
One particular study underlined that erythritol can diminish dental plaque, oral bacteria and the recurrence of dental carries in comparison to xylitol and sorbitol.
Moreover, a clinical study done on 485 school kids over a 3-year period, showed that erythritol diminished and slowed the appearance rate of dental caries in comparison to similar sugars.
But another research established that erythritol has no impact on either plaque or oral hygiene correlated to similar sugar alcohols.
- Balancing blood sugar levels
Erythritol can be recommended for overweight and wants to lose weight people or those that suffer from diabetes or blood sugar issues.
A couple of studies revealed that ingesting erythritol doesn`t boost blood sugar or insulin levels in non-diabetic or diabetic patients. Even though this research is small, the results seem to be promising.
- Gets processed in the body with ease
As a common rule, almost all sugar alcohols, such as xylitol or sorbitol, are prone to ferment in the gut, leading to gas, bloating or even diarrhea.
A limited lab study showed that erythritol doesn`t go through the fermentation process in the animal gut and doesn`t lead to digestive discomfort. Scientists think these results can be similar if it were to analyze its effects in humans.
Erythritol and potential dangers
Besides providing some health benefits as a sugar replacement, it is crucial to note down its side effects.
- Weight gain due to excessive eating
Medical practitioners suggest that artificial sweeteners can promote weight gain, obesity, blood pressure or even type 2 diabetes.
When you ingest foods that have sugar in them, your body automatically knows the process in which it needs to process those. It produces hormones that aid in diminishing appetite.
When you opt for man-made artificial sweeteners, your body skips the metabolizing part and, as a consequence, it doesn`t trigger a signal to tell your brain you ate something.
This, as a result increases the cravings and makes you overeat. Overeating promotes weight gain.
A few large clinical studies reveal that people who eat diet foods rich in artificial sweeteners are prone to overeat, gain weight, become obese and develop diabetes.
The exact cause for these side effects is unknown. It might be because of unhealthy diets or because of the direct impact of sweeteners on our body. Scientists still need to analyze these effects.
In theory, erythritol cannot be labeled as an artificial sweetener, as it is the case with aspartame or saccharin. It is a sugar alcohol, being the main reason why it requires additional research to establish if it is a factor in weight gain and overeating.
- Gastrointestinal problems
Several customers said that they experienced Gastrointestinal distress or GI, such as nausea, irritable bowel syndrome or a boost in gas occurrence.
At the same time, erythritol is one of the sugar alcohols that can lead to few of these negative side effects. This happens because of its molecular size is smaller than the other sugar alcohols.
Also, gastrointestinal problems appear to be related to the quantity of erythritol someone ingests.
Usually, erythritol is mixed with several artificial sweeteners such as aspartame for an improved sweetness in beverages or foods.
A couple of scientific studies showed there is a connection between artificial sweeteners and some health issues. The health problems that might worsen after ingesting sweeteners are depression, cancer, weight gain and many more diseases. But the claims aren’t conclusive and mostly unproven.
Is erythritol similar to stevia?
Erythritol is mostly similar to stevia, as they`re both natural sugar alternatives that are safe and easy to get.
Stevia represents a sugar replacement obtained from the leaves of a stevia plant. Stevia which is extracted from Green leaf is the least altered form of stevia, said to have almost no side effects.
Also, stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than regular sugar, meaning a smaller quantity is needed when compared to erythritol.
We can`t say for sure which of those two are the best. Labeled as safe to ingest, it ultimately comes to your personal taste.
Raw honey can be another sugar alternative to opt for. But keep in mind that it is not recommended for those that experience problems with blood sugar levels.
How safe Is erythritol for the children?
Medical practitioners talk about the importance of preventing kids from ingesting any type of compounds that have the potential to lead to cancer or other diseases.
Their bodies are growing and changing constantly, meaning they will manifest signs of an issue such as cancer after an extended period of time. This is why kids should avoid eating foods that feature aspartame, acesulfame-K, cyclamate, saccharin or sucralose.
Anyhow, one of the safest sugar alternatives for kids is erythritol. But too much of this compound can lead to nausea. Keep in mind that only small quantities of sugar alcohols are labeled as safe for kids, as too much can lead to diarrhea. Another safe compound might be Neotame, but it is not widely used nowadays.
Is erythritol recommended in pregnancy?
It is best for pregnant ladies to avoid ingesting artificial sweeteners. Two studies done in Scandinavia discovered that there is a connection between drinks with artificial sweeteners and pre-term delivery of babies.
The research couldn`t pinpoint the exact substance that led to this effect, yet it is believed the main issue was with aspartame and acesulfame-K.
Can sugar alcohols harm you?
Erythritol represents one of the sugar alcohols with good taste. It is obtained from cornstarch fermentation and has 70% of the sweetness of sugar, with up to 5% calories.
Erythritol and stevia are the core ingredients in the most used sweetener mix Truvia.
Erythritol does not lead to digestive issues as it is the case with other sugar alcohols. It is a substance that doesn`t end in notable quantities in the large intestine. Almost all of it is absorbed in the bloodstream and eliminated unchanged in urine.
Erythritol and Keto, Low Carb and sugar free diets
A ketogenic diet represents a low-carb meal plan meant to encourage the body to burn fat. People that opt for such diets benefit from weight loss and a boost in the overall health.
In an ideal situation, you wouldn`t want to crave sugar while on this diet. Yet the as we all know, some foods that taste great includes sugars and are quite difficult to avoid. So, for the people with sweet tooth, erythritol can be a good sugar alternative.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol approved by the FDA and labeled as safe (GRAS). This signifies it is safe to ingest as a food additive, commonly added in several foods in the European Union, Japan, Canada or Mexico.
Sugar alcohols have few calories in comparison to sucrose, that happens naturally in specific fruits or vegetables.
Erythritol has almost zero calories and a glycemic index of 0. It offers you the advantage of keeping up a healthy low-carb diet.
It is true that erythritol is labeled as a natural sweetener from the class of sugar alcohols, but it does not feature any ethanol, meaning it doesn`t get you drunk.
Polyols or sugar alcohols are named like this due to their composition that is a mix between sugar and alcohol.
Erythritol can offer a great sweet taste in foods without increasing blood sugar levels as it is the case with regular sugar. It is safe to use as a low-carb.
- Little to no calories
- Up to 70% more sweet than sugar
- It does not impact blood sugar or insulin levels
- Research done on humans reveals that it has little to no side effects. Some people might experience digestive problems when consumed excessive amounts
- Research done on animals that are fed large amounts of this compound for extended periods of time reveal no additional side effects
Those that are constantly concerned about their health might opt for using stevia or honey. Yet, honey is packed with calories and fructose, while some do not like the taste of stevia.
Erythritol seems to provide the best of both.