Erythritol is currently one of the most popular “natural” non-nutritive sweeteners. But how useful is erythritol in fact? In the article we will study erythritol, what it is, harm and benefit to the human body.
Since this substance seems less problematic than the controversial aspartame, it makes sense that more and more people are now choosing erythritol in the hope of reducing the amount of added sugar and the calories they consume.
You will usually find it in foods such as low-sugar, sugar-free and even carbohydrate-free foods, and although it is generally safe, there are some common side effects of erythritis that should be considered. For example, when used in large quantities, the consumption of erythritol can potentially cause negative reactions such as nausea and indigestion.
The reason he does not give calories or sugar to the consumer is because the body cannot actually destroy it! That’s right – studies show that although erythritol passes through your body, it is not metabolized. Another problem is that it is often made from GMOs – corn starch.
So what is erythritol, is it a safe and reasonable substitute for sugar, what harm and benefit? Below we look at the pros and cons of using it instead of other sweeteners.
What is Erythritol
Erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol, just like xylitol. It is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine, but is poorly metabolized and may not have the same health benefits as other natural sweeteners, such as honey.
Erythritol was first discovered in 1848 by a Scottish chemist named John Stenhouse. Japan has been using erythritol since the early 1990s in sweets, jellies, jams, chocolates (including a regular bar of chocolate), yogurt, drinks, and as a natural sugar substitute. It has gained popularity in the USA recently.
Since 1997, erythritol has been a safe ingredient, as enshrined in an FDA statement. The food industry and consumers love it because it has a sweet taste, like sugar, but it is not high-calorie and does not increase blood sugar.
Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates that chemically have the characteristics of both sugars and alcohols. In erythritol, zero calories and zero carbohydrates. But just because the sweetener does not have calories and does not affect blood sugar does not mean that it is beneficial, not harmful to your health.
Technically, this product is a four-carbon sugar alcohol or polyol that contains between 60 and 80% sweetness of table sugar.
“Sugar alcohols” have nothing to do with cocktails, as they do not contain ethanol (aka alcohol), like alcoholic drinks. Other sugar alcohols include sorbitol / glucitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, glycerin / glycerin and xylitol.
Once erythritol enters your body, it is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine, and only about 10% enter the colon, while the remaining 90% is excreted in the urine. In fact, it passes through the body without changes with zero metabolism.
Sources of Erythritol
We learned what erythritis is, a little touched the benefits and harms, consider food sources of erythritis.
If you read the product label, you may have noticed that alternative sweeteners, such as sucralose and erythritol, have recently become more visible on ingredient lists, especially in energy / sports drinks and chocolate bars.
Currently, erythritol is commonly added to many packaged foods, snacks, and drinks. Some examples of where you will find it include:
- zero calories and / or diet sodas
- sports and energy drinks
- sugar free chewing gums and other sweets (e.g. hard and soft candies, flavored jams and jelly spreads)
- chocolate products
- dairy desserts (such as ice cream, other frozen desserts and puddings)
- Grain-based packaged desserts (such as cakes and cookies)
- even some medications.
Erythritol is commonly used in combination with artificial sweeteners to improve the taste of foods. In addition to providing a sweet taste, sugar alcohols in foods add volume and texture, help retain moisture and prevent darkening.
Since erythritol is not hygroscopic (does not absorb moisture from the air), it is popular in some baked products because it does not dry them.
How to produce erythritis
As explained above, erythritol is found naturally in certain fruits and fermented foods. However, the problem is that the vast majority of erythritol used in products today is produced by humans from glucose (most often from GMO corn starch) and fermented with a yeast called Moniliella pollinis .
The type that is added to food and drinks today is usually made by a person from GMO corn starch, which leads to highly processed foods, which are far from claims of a natural sweetener. This is one of those “invisible ingredients of GMOs.”
Types of Erythritol
Erythritol is available in the form of a granular or powdered natural sweetener with zero calorie content. Examples of such products include Zsweet and Swerve (which are not GMO certified and sourced from France). Powdered erythritol is often used as confectioner’s sugar and does not have a “bitter or chemical aftertaste”.
When you buy organic erythritol, this ensures that the product cannot be obtained from a source of GMOs, such as corn starch.
Erythritol and Stevia
Stevia is a herbal plant belonging to the family Asteraceae . Stevia has been cultivated for 1,500 years by the Guaraní people in Brazil and Paraguay.
Stevia and erythritis – what is it, is it the same thing, are the benefits and harms of these substances the same? No, and some health experts said they personally prefer stevia leaf extract because it does not increase blood sugar and is associated with some health benefits. According to scientific studies, erythritis may include an increase in cholesterol, blood pressure and even increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
In general, stevia appears to be good for your health when you buy high-quality, clean extract of stevia leaves. Be sure to buy stevia without additives. Green stevia is considered one of the best options if you can find it.
Erythritol and Xylitol
Both of these products are sugar alcohols (also called low-calorie sweeteners). The main difference is that xylitol contains some calories (this is not zero calorie, like erythritol), but less than sugar. Xylitol also has a small effect on blood sugar, but erythritol does not.
It is found in some fruits and vegetables and has the same taste, texture and volume as sugar. One of the disadvantages of using xylitol is that it can cause diarrhea in some people, especially when used in large quantities. This is one of the reasons why some people prefer erythritol.
Xylitol benefits, on the other hand, include improved blood sugar control, dental health, and even immunity against certain infections.
Possible harm to erythritol
So, you know what erythritis is, consider the potential harm of this sweetener. The following are the main problems associated with sugar alcohols, including erythritol:
1. Usually Genetically Modified (GMOs)
WHO defines genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as food products derived from organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) was not naturally altered, for example, by introducing a gene from another organism.
Despite the fact that there are varieties without GMOs, most of the erythritol used in food and beverages today is derived from corn starch from genetically modified corn.
The topic is controversial and studies are underway that link GMO consumption with potential problems such as infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, poor regulation of insulin and changes in the main organs and the gastrointestinal tract.
2. It is usually combined with artificial sweeteners
Erythritol alone is not as sweet as sugar, so it is often mixed in foods and drinks with other dubious sweeteners, usually artificial ones.
When combined with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, an erythritol-containing product can do even more harm, rather than health benefits. Possible side effects of aspartame, for example, may include anxiety, depression, short-term memory loss, fibromyalgia, weight gain, fatigue, brain tumors, and more.
3. May cause gastrointestinal problems
Sugar alcohols pass through your body almost intact, like dietary fiber. This is why they can cause abdominal gas, bloating and diarrhea in some people, because they are not completely absorbed by the body and are fermented by bacteria in the colon. Some of the most common side effects of erythritis are unwanted gastrointestinal side effects, to which children are especially sensitive.
Unfortunately, gastrointestinal problems do not necessarily stop at some rumbling in the stomach. Diarrhea is a well-known side effect of erythritis, although to a lesser extent than with xylitol. Especially with excessive use, unabsorbed erythritol can draw water from the intestinal wall and cause diarrhea.
The likelihood of diarrhea appears to be even higher when erythritol is consumed with fructose. Diarrhea may seem harmless, but it can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and malnutrition.
When consumption is high (50 g or more per day), then indigestion, including gas, cramping, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea, is even more likely. One study found that taking 50 g of erythritis causes rumbling in the stomach and nausea.
For this reason, it is important to keep consumption in moderation in order to help prevent negative side effects and to consider reducing it if digestive problems occur. Studies usually show that up to 0.45 grams of erythritol per pound of body weight is well tolerated and safe for most people, but consumption should not exceed that amount.
4. May cause an allergic reaction.
Although this is very rare, erythritis can cause an allergic skin reaction in some people, as demonstrated in a study published in the Journal of Dermatology .
A 24-year-old woman developed a severe rash and wheezing all over her body after one glass of the drink was sweetened with erythritol.
5. Not safe for dogs / pets
Sugar alcohols should not be given to dogs because this can cause serious reactions. Even a small amount of sugar alcohols can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), cramps, liver failure, or even death in dogs.
Symptoms of poisoning develop rapidly in dogs after ingestion of sugar alcohols, usually within 15-30 minutes after ingestion. Call your doctor if your pet consumes any foods that contain sugar alcohols, such as chewing gum, sweets, etc.
Potential Benefits of Erythritol
Erythritis has not only potential harm, but also benefits. Consider the scientific facts.
1. Do not contain sugar and can help lose weight with weight control
Fans of this sweetener mainly love it because of the lack of calories that can be useful for weight control.
Erythritol is also suitable for diabetics and people on a keto diet and other low-carb diets. Replacing sugar with erythritol during keto can help control your carbohydrates and help you stay in ketosis.
2. May help increase satiety and satisfaction
Some scientific evidence suggests that erythritis can affect the release of certain hormones in the intestines and even slow down gastric emptying.
Many people also choose it as a sweetener because it does not cause a spike in blood sugar, which can be especially beneficial for diabetics.
3. Better for teeth than other sweeteners.
Studies have been mixed, but some say that erythritis can reduce plaque or even help prevent tooth decay because sugar alcohols do not react with plaque bacteria in the mouth like sugar.
One double-blind, randomized study examined the effects of erythritol on 485 primary school children. Each child consumed four sweets of erythritol, xylitol, or sorbitol three times a day.
In subsequent studies, scientists observed fewer caries in the erythritol group than in the xylitol or sorbitol groups. The time before the development of caries was also the longest in the erythritis group.
4. May have an antioxidant effect.
Some scientists claim that it can provide antioxidants for those who consume it. In one experiment performed on diabetic rats, erythritol appeared to act as an antioxidant (to fight free radicals) and potentially offer protection against vascular damage caused by hyperglycemia.
Erythritol Substitutes / Alternatives:
Remember that many erythritol substitutes are available if you cannot find them or prefer a different product. These include fruits, stevia, honey, molasses, and maple syrup if you don’t mind consuming real sugar and calories.
- Raw honey is a pure, unfiltered and unpasteurized sweetener made by bees from flower nectar. Unlike processed honey, raw honey does not lose its incredible nutritional value and beneficial properties. It has been scientifically proven to help with allergies, diabetes, sleep problems, coughing and wound healing. Look for a local beekeeper to get your raw honey.
- Fruit Monk – This product is now recommended for the same reasons as stevia. It is a fruit sweetener that has been used for hundreds of years. Many people think that it tastes good without bitterness. The monk contains substances that, when extracted, are natural sweeteners that are 300-400 times sweeter than cane sugar, but do not contain calories and do not affect blood sugar. Just make sure that the fruit product you purchase does not contain erythritol derived from GMOs or other unhealthy supplements.
- Erythritol – what is it? It is a calorie-free sweetener that is usually made by humans from genetically modified corn products.
- The benefits and harms of erythritis have been studied and are mixed.
- Is erythritis safe? There are some side effects and potential hazards to consider. Even if it’s not GMOs, it can also cause possible gastrointestinal upsets and allergic reactions in some people who may be sensitive to its effects.
- Erythritol may have some health benefits, and non-GMO species seem to be good in moderation. Potential benefits include helping to regulate blood sugar and weight, maintain healthy teeth and provide an antioxidant effect.
- There are many other natural, healthy sweeteners that can also be used, such as stevia, monk fruit, and raw honey.