Erythritol: Healthy Sweetener or Dangerous to Use?

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that has been used as a low-calorie alternative to other sugars. It is found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables. Some studies have shown that erythritol may cause digestive issues, but it appears to be safe for most people.

Erythritol has become one of the most widely used “natural” zero-calorie sweeteners. But, what precisely is erythritol, and is it safe to eat daily?

Because it seems to be less harmful than the contentious artificial sweetener aspartame, it’s no surprise that erythritol is becoming increasingly popular as a means of reducing added sugar in people’s diets.

It’s frequently found in low-sugar, sugar-free, and even no-carb meals, and although it’s usually harmless, there are a few erythritol adverse effects to keep in mind. When consumed in high quantities, erythritol, for example, may produce unpleasant side effects such as nausea and stomach discomfort.

Because the human body is incapable of breaking it down, it does not supply calories or sugar to its users. So even while erythritol passes through your body, it is not digested, according to research.

Another problem is that it’s often prepared using GMO cornstarch.

Is erythritol a suitable sugar replacement, and is it safe? We’ll go through the benefits and drawbacks of using it instead of other sweeteners further down.

What Is Erythritol?

Erythritol, like xylitol, is a natural sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates with properties that are chemically similar to both sugars and alcohols.

Per gram of erythritol, there are almost no carbohydrates and no calories.

John Stenhouse, a Scottish scientist, originally developed erythritol in 1848. Since the early 1990s, Japan has used erythritol in sweets, jellies, jams, chocolate (including the ubiquitous chocolate bar), yogurt, drinks, and a natural sugar replacement. It has lately acquired favor in the United States.

Despite the name’s confusion, “sugar alcohols” have nothing to do with cocktails since they don’t include ethanol (also known as alcohol). Sugar alcohols that aren’t sugar alcohols include:

  • sorbitol/glucitol
  • lactitol
  • isomalt
  • maltitol
  • mannitol
  • glycerol/glycerin
  • xylitol

Once in your body, erythritol is quickly absorbed in the small intestine and circulation, with just approximately 10% reaching the colon. The remaining 90% is eliminated in the urine.

It passes through your system without being metabolized.

Is it secure?

Is erythritol a safe substance? The United States Food and Drug Administration designated erythritol as “generally regarded as safe” in 1997.

It is popular in the food business and among consumers because it has a sweet taste comparable to sugar but is noncaloric and does not increase blood sugar levels.

Although there are some worries about sugar alcohols, studies thus far indicate that erythritol is unlikely to cause any additional damage when taken in normal quantities.

According to research, it’s quickly absorbed in the small intestine but poorly digested. As a result, it may not have the same health advantages as other natural sugar alternatives like monk fruit or raw honey.

Adults should take no more than 0.45 grams of erythritol per pound of body weight each day (or one gram of erythritol per kilogram of body weight) to prevent possible adverse effects, equating to 68 grams of erythritol for someone weighing 150 pounds. This is about 5.5 tablespoons of erythritol added to meals throughout the day.

Facts about Nutrition:

This product is a four-carbon sugar alcohol, also known as a polyol, with approximately 60% to 80% of the sweetness of table sugar.

Technically, each gram of erythritol has approximately 0.25 calories (so less than one calorie, which is considered to be zero). On the other hand, Table sugar has about 4 calories per gram or 16 times more calories.

To be clear, just because a sweetener has no calories and seems not to affect blood sugar does not imply it is inherently healthy.

Side Effects and Risks

Why, according to certain studies, is erythritol harmful to you? The main issues with sugar alcohols, including erythritol, are listed below.

1. Usually GMO (Genetically Modified Organism)

The World Health Organization defines genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as “foods produced from creatures whose genetic material (DNA) has been changed in a manner that does not normally occur, such as by introducing a gene from another organism.”

Despite the availability of non-GMO variants, most erythritol used in foods and drinks today comes from cornstarch produced from genetically modified maize.

While this is still a hotly debated subject with continuing study, animal studies have connected GMO intake to diseases such as:

  • infertility
  • Immune system issues
  • accelerating the aging process
  • insulin regulation issues
  • main organs and gastrointestinal system alterations

2. Frequently Used in Combination with Artificial Sweeteners

Because erythritol isn’t as sweet as sugar on its own, it’s often mixed with other problematic sweeteners, most of which are artificial.

The erythritol-rich substance may become much more harmful to your health when mixed with artificial sweeteners like aspartame. When erythritol is coupled with aspartame, for example, potential erythritol side effects include:

  • anxiety
  • memory loss in the short term
  • fibromyalgia
  • gaining weight
  • fatigue
  • more

3. Can Lead to Gastrointestinal Issues

Sugar alcohols, like dietary fiber, travel through the body primarily unnoticed. However, because they are not fully absorbed by the body and are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine, they may cause stomach gas, bloating, and diarrhea in some people.

The good news is that, as compared to other sugar alcohols, erythritol seems to be less prone to ferment in the stomach and cause digestive problems.

Unwanted gastrointestinal side effects are among the most frequent erythritol side effects, and children are particularly vulnerable to them.

Unfortunately, gastrointestinal problems do not often end with a rumbling in your stomach. Diarrhea is a well-known adverse effect of erythritol, but it is less frequent than with xylitol.

Unabsorbed erythritol may draw water from the intestinal wall and produce diarrhea, especially when taken in large amounts.

When erythritol is eaten with fructose, the risk of diarrhea seems to be increased. Diarrhea may seem to be innocuous, but it may cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and malnutrition.

Digestive disturbance, such as gas, cramps, bloating, stomachaches, and diarrhea, is more probable when high intake (50 grams or more per day)—for example, in one research, eating 50 grams of erythritol induced stomach-churning and nausea.

As a result, it’s critical to consume it in moderation to avoid unpleasant side effects and scale down if stomach problems arise.

In terms of the microbiome effect, one research showed that erythritol with stevia had no detrimental influence on bacterial growth in the gut. However, consumption did induce some alterations in gut microbial structure and diversity.

4. Allergic Reactions Could Occur

According to a study published in the Journal of Dermatology in 2000, erythritol can cause an allergic skin reaction in some people, even though it is scarce.

After drinking one glass of erythritol-sweetened beverage, a 24-year-old lady got a severe rash and “wheals” all over her body. A wheel, also known as a welt or hives, is a raised, itchy patch of skin that may be an apparent indication of an allergic reaction to anything you’ve eaten or been into contact with.

5. It is not suitable for dogs or pets.

Dogs should not be given sugar alcohols because they can cause severe reactions. For example, sugar alcohols may induce hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure, and even death in dogs in tiny quantities.

Poisoning Symptoms in dogs appear quickly after eating sugar alcohols, typically within 15–30 minutes of ingestion. Therefore, contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet has eaten any sugar alcohol-containing product, such as gum, candy, or other sweets.

Potential Advantages

What is the potential benefit of erythritol? Some of the reasons why people choose it as a sugar substitute include:

1. Sugar-free, with the potential to help with blood sugar and weight management.

This sweetener is popular among dieters because of its low-calorie content, which can aid in weight loss.

Diabetics and those on the keto diet and other low-carb diets may benefit from erythritol.

According to findings from a 2018 study, erythritol may be helpful as a glucose substitute and in the treatment of diabetes to help manage postprandial blood glucose levels. In addition, according to a 2020 review, sugar alcohols could be used as anti-diabetic supplements in diabetic foods and food products.

When doing keto, replacing sugar with erythritol can help keep your carbs under control and stay in ketosis.

All of this being said, there is a chance that excessive consumption will result in metabolic changes that are detrimental to weight loss. For example, a 2017 study discovered a link between erythritol and weight gain in young men, though the exact reasons for this are unknown.

2. Can Help You Feel More Satisfied

According to some studies, erythritol can influence the release of certain hormones in the gut and even slow stomach emptying. It can also improve the mouthfeel of low-sugar foods and mask the unpleasant aftertastes associated with other intense sweeteners.

3. Sweeteners that are better for your teeth than others

Because sugar alcohols do not react with plaque bacteria in the mouth as sugar does, some studies suggest that erythritol can help reduce plaque and even prevent tooth decay. According to the Food Insight Organization, erythritol inhibits the growth of a type of oral bacteria known to cause cavities (Streptococcus mutans).

The effects of erythritol on 485 primary school children were studied in a double-blind, randomized trial. Three times per school day, each child ate four erythritol, xylitol, or sorbitol candies.

Researchers found that the erythritol group had fewer cavities than the xylitol or sorbitol groups in follow-up examinations. In addition, the time it took for holes to appear was also longer in the erythritol group.

4. It Could Have Antioxidant Properties

According to some scientists, this sweetener may provide antioxidants and improve endothelial function in people with type 2 diabetes and support cardiovascular health in other ways.

In a study on diabetic rats, erythritol appeared to act as an antioxidant (fighting free radicals) and may protect from hyperglycemia-induced vascular damage.

Sources

Erythritol is found in small amounts in fruits like watermelon, pear, and grapes, as well as mushrooms and some fermented foods like cheese, wine, beer, and sake.

Erythritol is now widely used in a variety of packaged foods, snacks, and beverages. Here are some examples of where you can find it:

  • sodas and drinks with no calories and that are low in calories and that are low in calories and that are low
  • sports and energizing beverages
  • Gums, mints, and other sweets that are sugar-free (such as hard and soft candies, flavored jam, and jelly spreads)
  • products made of chocolate
  • frostings
  • desserts made with milk (such as ice cream, other frozen desserts, and puddings)
  • desserts made with grains that have been packaged (such as cakes and cookies)
  • even some pharmaceuticals

To improve the taste of products, erythritol is frequently combined with artificial sweeteners. You may have noticed alternative sweeteners like sucralose and erythritol becoming more prominent in ingredient lists recently, especially in energy/sports drinks and chocolate bars, if you’re a label reader (which I hope you are!).

Sugar alcohols in food add bulk and texture, help retain moisture, and prevent browning, in addition to providing a sweet taste.

Because erythritol is non-hygroscopic (it doesn’t absorb moisture from the air), it’s popular in baked goods because it prevents them from drying out.

Types and how it’s made

Erythritol is found naturally in some fruits and fermented foods, as previously stated. However, the vast majority of erythritol used in products today is manufactured by fermenting glucose (most commonly derived from GMO cornstarch) with a yeast called Moniliella pollinis.

The kind used in food and drinks today is usually produced from GMO cornstarch, resulting in a highly processed product far from being a natural sweetener. It’s one of those “invisible GMO additives,” as they’re known.

Erythritol is a natural zero-calorie sweetener that comes in granulated or powdered form. Zsweet and Swerve are two examples of such goods (non-GMO certified and sourced from France).

Powdered erythritol is frequently used in place of confectioner’s sugar, with “no bitter or artificial aftertaste,” according to the manufacturer.

When you buy organic erythritol, you can be confident that it was not produced from a GMO source like cornstarch.

Stevia vs. Erythritol

Is there a difference between stevia and erythritol? Stevia is a unique sugar substitute.

It’s a plant of the Asteraceae family that’s used in herbal medicine. The Guarani people of Brazil and Paraguay have been using the stevia plant for over 1,500 years.

To enhance volume and minimize aftertaste, these two sweeteners are often mixed.

Is erythritol a better sugar substitute than stevia?

Certain health professionals believe that stevia leaf extract is preferable since it does not raise blood sugar levels and has some health advantages. Improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure, and even certain kinds of cancer, according to study studies, may be among them.

When you purchase a high-quality, pure stevia leaf extract product, stevia seems to be a health-promoting option. However, make careful you choose stevia that is free of additives.

If you can get it, green stevia is considered to be one of the finest choices.

Erythritol vs. Xylitol

Sugar alcohols are included in both of these products (also called reduced-calorie sweeteners). The primary distinction is that xylitol has fewer calories than sugar (it’s not zero-calorie like erythritol).

Xylitol, unlike erythritol, has little effect on blood sugar levels.

It’s naturally present in certain fruits and vegetables and has a flavor, texture, and volume comparable to sugar. One disadvantage of xylitol is that it may induce diarrhea in some individuals, particularly when taken in high quantities.

One of the reasons why some individuals choose erythritol is because of this. On the other hand, xylitol has been linked to improvements in blood sugar control, oral health, and even immunity to some illnesses.

Purchase/Use Instructions

What stores sell erythritol? It’s available in health food shops, supermarkets, and online.

How can you tell whether a product that contains erythritol is GMO-free if it contains erythritol? On the package, the product must bear a USDA Organic or a Non-GMO Project-certified logo.

Substitutes/Alternatives to Erythritol:

If you can’t locate any or prefer a different product due to erythritol side effects, keep in mind that numerous erythritol alternatives are available. Try stevia, monk fruit, honey, molasses, and maple syrup if you don’t mind eating natural sugar and calories.

  • Raw honey is a natural sweetener produced by bees from blossom nectar. It is unfiltered and unpasteurized. Raw honey, unlike processed honey, retains all of its nutritional content and health benefits. Allergies, diabetes, sleep issues, coughing, and wound healing have all been clinically shown to benefit from it. To get raw honey, look for a local beekeeper. This increases the likelihood of it assisting with seasonal allergies.
  • Monk fruit – For the same reasons as stevia, this substance is now suggested. It’s a fruit-derived sweetener that’s been around for centuries. It has a nice flavor without being bitter, according to many people. When isolated, Monk fruit contains chemicals that are natural sweeteners that are 300–400 times sweeter than cane sugar yet have no calories or blood sugar effects. Just make sure the monk fruit you buy doesn’t include any GMO-derived erythritol or other potentially harmful ingredients.

Conclusion

  • What is erythritol, and what does it do? It’s a calorie-free sweetener that’s often produced from genetically modified maize.
  • Is erythritol a safe sugar substitute? While the FDA considers erythritol to be generally safe, specific erythritol side effects are to be aware of. For example, even if it isn’t genetically modified, it may induce gastrointestinal discomfort and allergic responses in those who are susceptible to its effects.  However, when used as a sugar replacement, it may have some health advantages, and non-GMO types seem to be safe in moderation. Blood sugar and weight management, oral health assistance, and antioxidant properties are all potential advantages.
  • There are a variety of alternative natural, health-promoting sweeteners, such as stevia, monk fruit, and raw honey, that may be used in moderation to reduce your sugar consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does erythritol cause cancer?

No.

What is the safest artificial sweetener to use?

The safest artificial sweetener is sucralose. It has been shown to be safe for human consumption and does not cause any side effects.

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  • is erythritol safe for diabetics
  • erythritol vs stevia
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