Sugar is your body’s biggest frenemy. And your body expresses its dislike towards sugar by either piling on pounds or developing diabetes (if you don’t limit its intake).
To protect your ‘smart’ body, you need to resort to sugar-but-not-sugar kind of substitutes – like erythritol.
But does your body like erythritol? Does it do more harm than good? Put your reading glasses on and scroll down!
In This Article
- What Is Erythritol? Where Does It Come From?
- What Are The Valuable Properties Of Erythritol?
- Where Can You Find Erythritol?
- Where Do You Get Erythritol From?
- What Are The Side Effects Of Consuming Erythritol?
What Is Erythritol? Where Does It Come From?
Erythritol is a natural sweetener that is gaining more and more popularity, especially within the food industry. It is widely used as a sweetener in calorie-reduced foods, candies, or bakery products.
Erythritol belongs to the family of sugar alcohols, also known as polyols, which are formed due to the hydrolyzation processes of the aldehyde or ketone group in various carbohydrates.
Polyols are naturally abundant in fruits and vegetables like grapes and mushrooms as well as fermented foods like soy sauce (1).
You might be wondering, why is erythritol used widely? What are its selling points? Here you go!
What Are The Valuable Properties Of Erythritol?
Erythritol is widely used as an artificial sweetener mainly because it is mildly sweet. It is as sweet as sucrose but with lesser calories.
If you add one teaspoon of sugar to your tea, one spoon of erythritol should do (volume for volume).
But if you use sucralose, which is a synthetic substitute that is much sweeter, you might have to add only one-fourth of a teaspoon.
You get the drift, right?
Apart from having sugar equivalence, erythritol offers the following benefits.
1. Anti-Diabetic Properties
Erythritol does not increase serum levels of glucose or insulin in your body, while the same dose of glucose raises insulin levels rapidly within 30 minutes.
It also does not have any significant effect on the serum levels of total cholesterol, triacylglycerol, and free fatty acids.
Erythritol is safe to consume and is, in fact, a better option for diabetic patients because more than 90% of ingested erythritol is readily absorbed and excreted through urine without degradation (2).
2. Helps In Weight Loss And Management
Sucrose has an adverse effect on your weight and adiposity build-up. Most health enthusiasts and people trying to lose weight stop the intake of sugar and switch to artificial sweeteners if they cannot go completely sugarless.
Erythritol has a very low glycemic index (GI=0). Adding it to your beverages, muffins, or sweets will reduce the blood glucose build-up that triggers weight gain (3).
Although it caused weight gain in some cases, erythritol plays an essential role in managing weight, especially among obese individuals.
3. Prevents Tooth Decay (Non-Cariogenic)
Erythritol suppresses the growth of oral bacteria, such as Streptococcus, which form a biofilm on your teeth and cause tooth decay.
Inhibition of microbial growth leads to a reduction in the acid produced by your gut. This way, the teeth don’t develop caries and plaques.
When compared to other natural and synthetic sweeteners – like xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and sucralose – erythritol takes the longest to form plaque and is the mildest of all.
Owing to these properties, dentists can use erythritol as a matrix in subgingival air polishing, replacing the traditional root scaling in periodontal therapy (4).
4. Gut-Friendly And Non-Acidogenic
Since erythritol is a small four-carbon molecule, it gets easily digested in your gut. Also, because it has a very low glycemic index, it gets digested slowly and almost completely.
Unlike sucralose, xylitol, sorbitol or mannitol, whose remnants can be found in the large intestines, about 90% of erythritol gets absorbed.
This is why you have lesser acidity and flatulence when you take about 50 g/kg of erythritol, while other sweeteners cause watery stools, nausea, and diarrhea at 20-30 g/kg intake (5).
5. Potent Antioxidant Activity
Erythritol is an excellent scavenger of free radicals. The sugar alcohol forms erythrose and erythrulose that are excreted through urine.
It scavenges hydroxyl free radicals specifically and can protect your body from cardiovascular damage, hyperglycemia-induced disorders, and lipid peroxidation.
Having erythritol instead of other sweeteners can lower inflammation in organs like the kidneys, liver, and intestines (6).
Erythritol can prevent the development of conditions like constipation, renal failure, hypercholesterolemia, acidity, ulcers, and Crohn’s disease and protect the organ systems it comes in contact with.
For a sugar substitute, erythritol has some pretty incredible properties. So, it’s clear why it’s become so popular.
Thanks to the list of benefits erythritol boasts of, here’s a list of its applications. Check this out, and you’d be shocked!
Where Can You Find Erythritol?
You can find Erythritol in
- Beverages (as a sugar substitute)
- Chewing gums
- Chocolate candies
- Tabletop sweetener
- Solid and liquid formulations
- Granulated powders
- Preferred pharmaceutical excipient
Isn’t this crazy? I had no idea about how much erythritol we’ve been consuming daily!
But wait, where do you get all this erythritol from to use in anything and everything?
Let me clear up your confusion.
Where Do You Get Erythritol From?
Erythritol is found in fruits and vegetables. However, extraction from these natural sources is not feasible because they contain erythritol only in trace amounts.
In the 1950s, the possibility of producing erythritol using biotechnology opened up. The production of erythritol was first observed in yeasts and yeast-like fungi.
A strain (probably belonging to the genus Torula) was able to convert 35–40% of utilized glucose into erythritol. Certain lactic acid bacteria and filamentous fungi can also efficiently produce erythritol by fermentation.
Currently, corn or wheat starch is fermented with yeast Moniliella pollinis or Trichosporonoides megachliensis. The fermented mixture is then heated and dried to obtain erythritol crystals.
As sweet as sugar, produced from yeasts and bacteria, no artificial additives – that’s how ideal a sugar substitute erythritol is!
There’s always a ‘but.’
Erythritol is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used in foods and is well absorbed by your small intestine. But, research has found some appalling side effects caused by the continuous ingestion of erythritol.
Do you want to know what could go wrong with your body? Go on to the next section.
What Are The Side Effects Of Using Erythritol?
1. Bloating, Diarrhea, And Nausea
Sugar alcohols or polyols have a bad history of screwing up your digestion. Since your body does not entirely absorb them, such substances tend to remain in your system for a long time.
The large intestine ferments the erythritol intermediates and causes bloating. You might experience nausea, flatulence (gas), and diarrhea (7).
2. Diuretic Effect (Increases Urination)
Ingesting high levels of erythritol for a long time can increase the urine volume and the number of times you urinate.
Erythritol also causes loss of electrolytes. Consuming it in high quantities leads to an increase in calcium, citrate, sodium, potassium, N-acetylglucosaminidase, and total protein content in the urine (8).
Erythritol can be harmful as it can cause an electrolyte imbalance that could lead to weakness, dizziness, and dehydration.
3. Could Be Carcinogenic
Most of the sugar substitutes like mannitol, sorbitol, steviol, and xylitol are linked to irreversible mutations and cancer.
But recent research shows that erythritol alone does not necessarily cause cancer, unlike other sugar alcohols. When administered to rats, erythritol didn’t show any DNA damage or chromosomal aberrations.
We need further in-depth research to ascertain these assumptions (9).
The Final Call…
Not everything sugar-free is good for your body.
In the name of cutting down our sugar and calorie intake, most of us end up in deeper trouble by ingesting random artificial sweeteners.
Synthetic sugar substitutes like sucralose and aspartame can save you from sucrose but not from diabetes, acidity, and cardiovascular diseases.
Choosing natural, plant, or microbe-based sugar alcohols will keep such complications at bay. Erythritol is one such sugar alcohol that has low calories and glycemic index.
You can use erythritol in cakes, muffins, pastries, pies, tarts, sweets, drinks, and beverages in equal amounts as table sugar.
Despite its side effects, erythritol is being used in many industries and has been accepted well. So, buy yourself a small packet of erythritol, see how you like it and how your body reacts to it and then try to take the healthy plunge. You can buy it here.
If you found what you were looking for about erythritol, like this page and feel free to share your comments, feedback, and suggestions in the comments section below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is stevia better than erythritol?
Stevia is a plant-based sugar substitute while erythritol is commercially produced from yeast and starch.
Erythritol has more applications as it is heat-stable while stevia might break down into undesirable products.
Stevia can cause allergic reactions because it has a plant origin. So, pick erythritol over stevia if you have an option.
1. “Erythritol as sweetener…” Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
2. “Serum glucose and insulin levels…” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine
3. “Health potential of polyols…” Nutritional research reviews, US National Library of Medicine
4. “Erythritol Is More effective Than…” International Journal of Dentistry, US National Library of Medicine
5. “Gastrointestinal tolerance of…” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine
6. “Erythritol is a sweet antioxidant” Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine
7. “Sugar alcohols” US FDA
8. “Chronic toxicity and carcinogenicity…” Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, US National Library of Medicine
9. “Genotoxicity Assessment of Erythritol…” Toxicological Research, US National Library of Medicine