Erythritol — Like Sugar MINUS the Calories...
The low-calorie sweetener Erythritol may seem too good to be true.
It's natural, doesn't cause side effects and tastes almost exactly like
sugar — without the calories.
Basically, it has all the things that are good about regular sugar, without
any of the negatives. This evidence-based article reviews the benefits
and possible side effects of erythritol.
So what Is Erythritol?
Erythritol belongs to a class of compounds called sugar alcohols. Many different sugar alcohols are used by food producers. These include: xylitol, sorbitol and maltitol.
Most of them function as low-calorie sweeteners in sugar-free or low-sugar products.
Most sugar alcohols are found in small amounts in nature, especially in fruits and vegetables.
The way these molecules are structured gives them the ability to stimulate the sweet taste receptors on your tongue.Erythritol appears to be quite different from the other
To begin with, it contains much fewer calories:
Table sugar: 4 calories per gram
Xylitol: 2.4 calories per gram
Erythritol: 0.24 calories per gram
With only 6% of the calories of sugar, it still contains 70% of the
Is Erythritol Safe?
Overall, Erythritol appears to be very safe. Despite long-term feeding of high amounts of Erythritol, no serious side effects have been detected. There is one major caveat to most sugar alcohols — they can cause digestive issues. Due to their unique chemical structure, your body can’t digest them, and they pass unchanged through most of your digestive system, or until
they reach the colon. In the colon, they are fermented by the resident bacteria, which produce
gas as a side product. Consequently, eating high amounts of sugar alcohols may cause bloating
and digestive upset. However, erythritol is different to other sugar alcohols. Most of it gets
absorbed into the bloodstream before it reaches the colon. It circulates in the blood for a while, until it is eventually excreted unchanged in the urine. About 90% of erythritol is excreted this way.
Although erythritol doesn’t have any serious side effects, eating high amounts may cause digestive upset, as explained in the next chapter.
Erythritol Side Effects
About 90% of the erythritol you eat is absorbed into the bloodstream. The remaining 10% travels undigested down to the colon. Unless you're eating massive amounts of it at a time, it's unlikely to cause a stomach upset. However, erythritol sensitivity may vary
Does Not Spike Blood Sugar or Insulin
Humans don't have the enzymes needed to break down erythritol. It’s absorbed into the bloodstream and then excreted unchanged in the urine.
When healthy people are given erythritol, there is no change in blood sugar or insulin levels. There is also no effect on cholesterol, triglycerides or other biomarkers. For those who are overweight or have diabetes or other issues related to metabolic syndrome, erythritol appears to be an excellent alternative to sugar.
May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease Studies in diabetic rats show it acts as an antioxidant, possibly reducing blood vessel damage caused by high blood sugar levels. Another study in 24 adults with type 2 diabetes found that taking 36 grams of erythritol every day for a month improved the function of their blood vessels, potentially reducing their risk of heart disease.
The Bottom Line
Overall, erythritol appears to be an excellent sweetener. It contains almost no calories.
It has 70% of the sweetness of sugar. It doesn't raise blood sugar or insulin levels.
Human studies show very few side effects, mainly minor digestive issues in some people. Studies in which animals are fed massive amounts for long periods of time show no adverse effects. Health-conscious people might choose to sweeten their food with stevia or honey. However, honey contains calories and fructose, and many people don't appreciate the aftertaste of stevia.
Erythritol appears to offer the best of both worlds.