Erythritol: Uses, Benefits, Risks
The low calorie sweetener, erythritol, looks great to be exact. It is natural, has no side effects, and tastes almost like sugar, but has no calories.
It basically has all the benefits of regular sugar without any reduction, although some media outlets have differed on its benefits.
This evidence-based article looks at the benefits and possible side effects of erythritol.
What is Erythritol?
- Erythritol belongs to a class of compounds called sugar alcohols.
- Food manufacturers use many sugar alcohols, such as xylitol, sorbitol, and maltitol.
- Most of them serve as low calorie sweets in sugar free or low sugar products.
- Most sugary alcohols are naturally found in small amounts, especially in fruits and vegetables.
- Due to its structure, this molecule can stimulate sweet taste receptors on the tongue.
- Erythritol is very different from other sugary alcohols.
First of all, it contains very few calories:
- Table sugar: 4 calories per gram
- Xylitol: 2.4 calories per gram.
- Erythritol: 0.24 calories per gram.
Sugar contains only 6% of calories, but 70% of it is sweet.
In mass production, erythritol is produced when a type of yeast ferments corn glucose or wheat starch. The final product looks like a white crystalline powder.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol used as a low calorie dessert. It provides only 6% of the calories found in the same amount of sugar.
Is erythritol safe?
Overall, erythritol seems very safe. There have been several studies on toxins and their effects on animal metabolism. Erythritol has been found to be safe for humans and animals. However, most sugars have an important caveat regarding alcohol: they can cause digestive problems.
Due to its unique chemical composition, it cannot be digested by your body and your digestive system is not altered until it reaches the large intestine. In the large intestine, they are fermented by resident bacteria that produce gas as a by-product.
As a result, drinking large amounts of sugar alcohol can cause bloating and indigestion. They actually belong to a class of fibers called FODMAPs.
However, erythritol is different from other sugar alcohols. Most are absorbed into the bloodstream before reaching the large intestine.
It circulates in the blood for a while until it is finally excreted in the urine and does not change. About 90% of erythritol is released in this way.
Most of the erythritol you eat is absorbed into your bloodstream and excreted in your urine. This seems to be a great security profile.
Side effects of erythritol
- About 90% of the erythritol you eat is absorbed into your bloodstream. The remaining 10% are undigested in the large intestine.
- Unlike other sugary alcohols, it is resistant to fermentation by intestinal bacteria.
- Nutrition studies that provide 0.7 to 1 gram per kilogram (2.2 lb) of body weight show that it is well tolerated.
- However, one study found that 50 grams of erythritol per dose increased nausea and upset stomach.
- If you do not eat a lot at once, it is not likely to upset the stomach. However, the sensitivity of erythritol may vary from person to person.
About 10% of ingested erythritol is not absorbed into the bloodstream and enters the colon. For this reason, excessive use of erythritol can cause some digestive side effects.
Does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels
- Humans do not have the enzymes needed to break down erythritol.
- It is absorbed into the bloodstream and then excreted in the urine without any change.
- In animal studies, erythritol was found to inhibit the rise in blood sugar and insulin levels.
- For people who are overweight, have diabetes, or have other problems with metabolic syndrome, erythritol is the best alternative to sugar.
Erythritol does not raise blood sugar levels. This makes it the best sugar substitute for diabetics.
May reduce the risk of heart disease
Studies in diabetic mice have shown that erythritol acts as an antioxidant, possibly reducing blood vessel damage due to high blood sugar.
Another study of 24 adults with type 2 diabetes found that taking 36 grams of erythritol daily for a month improved blood vessel function, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.
However, further research is needed before the health significance of these findings can be claimed.
Erythritol acts as an antioxidant and can improve the function of blood vessels in people with type 2 diabetes. This benefit has the potential to reduce the risk of heart disease, but more research is needed.
Hope for oral or dental health benefits
One of the common side effects of consuming too much sugar is poor oral health, cavities and tooth decay. Bad bacteria in the mouth use sugar for energy. In the process, they release acids that destroy tooth enamel.
As a result, sweet-tasting sugar alcohols such as xylitol and erythritol have found food to be “safe for teeth” because oral bacteria cannot use them for energy. Xylitol and erythritol also directly inhibit bacterial growth.
Many studies have examined the effects of erythritol on wounds, with mixed results. Some studies show a reduction in plaque and harmful bacteria, while others show no reduction.
However, a three-year study of 485 schoolchildren found that erythritol was better than xylitol and sorbitol in protecting the joints.
A 2016 research study reached the same conclusion, stating that erythritol is more effective against plaque and cavities than xylitol or sorbitol.
Erythritol can stop the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Also, unlike sugar, it does not eat the bacteria that cause sores.
The Bottom Line
In general, erythritol is an excellent sweetener.
- It has almost no calories.
- It contains 70% sugar.
- Does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels.
- Human studies show very few side effects, most people with minor digestive problems.
- Studies that have shown that animals have been fed large amounts of food over a long period of time have not shown any side effects.
Health conscious people can sweeten their food with stevia or honey. However, honey contains calories and fructose, and many people do not like the taste of stevia.