Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that’s low in calories, but has a sweet taste and can be used as an alternative to regular sugar in cooking. Find out if erythritol is safe to consume, the benefits and risks associated with it, and how you can incorporate it into your diet.
What is Erythritol?
Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol that is used as a sugar substitute. It can be found naturally in grapes, peaches, pears, watermelon, and mushrooms. Since 1990, erythritol has also been manufactured as a sweetener. It only contains about 6% of the calories found in equal sugar. Erythritol is produced on a large scale when a type of yeast ferments glucose from corn or wheat starch. The finished product resembles powdery white crystals.
Erythritol is 70% sweeter than table sugar yet has fewer calories. Erythritol has almost few calories and barely affects blood sugar, making it a good choice for people with diabetes and weight watchers. It doesn't cause tooth decay and lasts a long time. In addition, Erythritol does not create energy spikes or gastrointestinal upset like other sugar alcohols because it is slowly digested.
Is Erythritol Natural or Synthetic?
Erythritol can be obtained commercially from corn or wheat starch or naturally in some fruits and vegetables. It is therefore sometimes referred to as "natural" and "all-natural." The nutritional value of all sources is the same, hence the FDA does not distinguish between natural and synthetic erythritol. Erythritol has been deemed safe for use as a food additive by the FDA.
In addition to being naturally formed from sugars, erythritol is a sugar alcohol. Moreover, three different forms of erythritol—liquid, powder, and granulated—are being produced in the US. Erythritol is a non-nutritive sweetener with no calories and no carbohydrates, regardless of how it is produced. Erythritol is also a bulking ingredient to assist various foods and beverages in balancing their sweetness.
Since erythritol can be found naturally in some foods, but it has also been made synthetically since 1990, some sources consider it a natural sweetener because it is derived from plant sugars, while others classify it as synthetic.
If your blood level of erythritol was in the top 25% compared to the bottom 25%, there was about a two-fold higher risk for heart attack and stroke. The study found an association between erythritol and elevated cardiovascular risk but did not prove the compound caused strokes and heart attacks. Research is still ongoing on the health risks of erythritol. Further safety studies must examine the long-term effects of consuming this artificial sweetener.
Source: Zero-calorie sweetener linked to heart attack and stroke, study finds [https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/27/health/zero-calorie-sweetener-heart-attack-stroke-wellness/index.html]
Is Erythritol Good or Bad for You?
Erythritol may be a better option than sugar because it is non-caloric, low glycemic, and free of artificial chemicals. By restricting the body's sugar intake, erythritol has been demonstrated to help lower the health risks connected with tooth decay related to the oral cavity. Furthermore, erythritol is safe for people with diabetes because it does not harm insulin or blood glucose levels in healthy individuals.
It's crucial to remember that since the body does not entirely absorb erythritol, excessive consumption may cause gastrointestinal irritation. Although it can do this, it can cause bloating and flatulence by drawing water from the small intestine into the colon. Furthermore, bacterial fermentation caused by consuming significant amounts of erythritol over an extended period may reduce nutrient absorption in the small intestine. Finally, according to a recent study, high doses of erythritol have been associated with liver impairment. Erythritol should therefore be a part of a balanced diet in general.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Consuming Erythritol?
Just llike any food ingredient, it has its pros and cons depending on an individual's health status, taste preferences, and dietary needs.
- Low in calories: Erythritol is very low in calories, containing only 0.2 calories per gram. This makes it a popular alternative to sugar for those looking to reduce their calorie intake.
- Does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels: Erythritol does not affect blood sugar or insulin levels, making it a suitable sweetener for people with diabetes or those following a low-carb diet.
- Does not promote tooth decay: Erythritol is not metabolized by oral bacteria, which means it does not contribute to tooth decay or cavities.
- Easy to digest: Erythritol is easily digestible and does not cause the digestive upset or bloating that some other sugar alcohols may cause.
- Can cause digestive issues in some people: While erythritol is generally well-tolerated, it may cause digestive issues such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea in some people.
- May have a cooling effect: Erythritol has a cooling effect on the tongue, which some people may find unpleasant.
- May not be suitable for all recipes: Erythritol does not have the same chemical properties as sugar, which means it may not work well in all recipes. It may not caramelize or provide the same texture or mouthfeel as sugar.
- May be more expensive: Erythritol can be more expensive than sugar, which may be a concern for some consumers.
There is no proof that Erythritol is bad for any portion of the human body when ingested in moderation. Therefore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States has allowed using Erythritol in foods and beverages because it is widely regarded as safe.
Yet, as with any meal or food ingredient, erythritol overuse can have adverse health effects. For example, some people may experience digestive problems after consuming significant doses of Erythritol, including bloating, gas, and diarrhea. However, according to research, consuming high concentrations of Erythritol may significantly decline the body's antioxidant function.
It's important to remember that there are few long-term studies on the safety of Erythritol because it's a relatively new sweetener. Therefore, Erythritol should be consumed in moderation as with any other food ingredient and as part of a balanced diet. Consult your healthcare professional if you have any questions about the safety of Erythritol.