Erythritol: Healthy Sweetener or a Big, Fat Lie? Like Sugar Without the Calories?
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It’s possible that erythritol, a low-calorie sweetener, will appear to be too good to be true.
It is natural, it does not produce any adverse effects, and it tastes virtually precisely the same as sugar, but it does not have any calories.
In a nutshell, it possesses all of the benefits of conventional sugar without any of the sugar’s drawbacks, despite the fact that certain media outlets are sceptical about its advantages.
This article, which is based on evidence, discusses the uses of erythritol as well as any potential negative effects it may have.
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What is erythritol?
Erythritol is a member of a group of chemical substances known as sugar alcohols (1).
Sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, and maltitol are frequently used in the manufacturing of food.
The majority of them are used as low-calorie sweeteners in goods that are either sugar-free or have a reduced amount of sugar.
The majority of sugar alcohols can be found in nature, albeit typically in very trace amounts, most notably in fruits and vegetables.
Because of the structure of these molecules, they have the ability to excite the taste receptors on your tongue that are responsible for sweet flavours.
It would appear that erythritol is not like any of the other sugar alcohols in any way.
To start, it has a significantly lower total calorie content:
Table sugar: 4 calories per gramme
Xylitol: 2.4 calories per gramme
Erythritol has a calorie content of 0.24 per gramme.
With only 6 percent of the calories of sugar, it yet contains 70 percent of sweetness.
Erythritol is made in industrial quantities by subjecting glucose derived from corn or wheat starch to the action of a certain strain of yeast. The finished product resembles crystals that are milky white in colour.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is utilised as a sweetener because of its low-calorie content. It barely contributes roughly 6 percent of the calories that are contained in an equivalent quantity of sugar.
Is erythritol safe?
In general, erythritol seems to be very safe to consume.
Animals have been used in a variety of research projects to investigate the substance’s toxicity as well as the effects it has on metabolism. Erythritol has been evaluated and determined to be safe for intake by both humans and animals.
The majority of sugar alcohols, however, share a critical drawback: they are known to be associated with digestive problems.
Because of the one-of-a-kind chemical structure, your body is unable to digest them. As a result, they move through the majority of your digestive system unaltered, arriving unaltered in your colon.
They are fermented by the bacteria that are already living in your colon, which results in the production of gas as a byproduct.
As a consequence of this, consuming high quantities of sugar alcohols may result in bloating and discomfort in the digestive tract. In point of fact, these fibres are classified under a subgroup known as FODMAPs.
Erythritol, on the other hand, is not like the other sugar alcohols in any way. Before it can even reach your colon, the vast majority of it is absorbed into your bloodstream.
It stays in your blood for some time before being eliminated completely unaltered through your kidneys and into your urine. This accounts for the excretion of around ninety per cent of the erythritol.
The majority of the erythritol that you consume is absorbed into your bloodstream and then eliminated through your urine. It would appear to have an outstanding safety profile.
Erythritol side effects
It is estimated that approximately ninety percent of the erythritol that you consume is absorbed into your bloodstream. The remaining 10% of food passes through your digestive tract undigested and into your colon.
It appears to be resistant to fermentation by colon bacteria, in contrast to the vast majority of other sugar alcohols.
Research on feeding subjects up to 0.7 to 1 gramme of the substance for every kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of body weight demonstrates that it is very well tolerated.
One study, on the other hand, found that a single dose of 50 grammes of erythritol exacerbated feelings of nausea and rumbling in the stomach.
It’s not likely to upset your stomach unless you consume enormous quantities of it all at once, so don’t worry about it. However, susceptibility to erythritol might vary greatly from one individual to the next.
Roughly ten percent of the erythritol that is consumed does not get absorbed into the blood and instead makes its way to the colon. Because of this, consuming an excessive amount of erythritol might result in a variety of digestive adverse effects.
Does not spike blood sugar or insulin
Erythritol cannot be broken down into its component parts in humans because we lack the necessary enzymes.
It is then passed unchanged through the urinary tract after being absorbed into the bloodstream.
Studies conducted on animals revealed that erythritol was able to prevent a rise in both blood sugar and insulin levels.
Erythritol appears to be an excellent alternative to sugar for individuals who are overweight, have diabetes, or suffer from any of the other conditions that are associated with metabolic syndrome.
Erythritol does not raise blood sugar levels. Because of this, it is a great sugar alternative for individuals who suffer from diabetes.
May reduce the risk of heart disease
Research conducted on diabetic rats revealed that erythritol possesses antioxidant properties, suggesting that it may lessen the damage to blood vessels brought on by high blood sugar levels.
Another study indicated that giving 24 adults with type 2 diabetes erythritol in a dosage of 36 grammes per day for a period of one month enhanced the function of their blood vessels, which may have resulted in a reduction in the participants’ risk of developing heart disease.
However, before any conclusions can be drawn about the health implications of these findings, additional research needs to be conducted.
Erythritol has antioxidant properties and has been shown to potentially improve blood vessel function in patients who have type 2 diabetes. These benefits could perhaps lessen the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease; however, additional research is required.
May benefit dental health
Consuming an excessive amount of sugar is associated with a number of negative health effects, including poor oral health, cavities, and tooth decay.
Sugar is a source of fuel for the pathogenic bacteria found in the mouth. During the process, these bacteria produce acids that are harmful to tooth enamel and are released.
Because oral bacteria are unable to derive energy from sugar alcohols with a sweet taste, such as xylitol and erythritol, these sugar alcohols have made their way into products marketed as being “tooth-friendly.”
Both xylitol and erythritol have been shown to directly inhibit the development of bacteria.
There have been a number of research conducted to investigate how erythritol affects cavities, and the findings have been inconsistent. Several studies find a decline in the amount of plaque and germs that are dangerous, while others find no change in the number of cavities.
However, a study that took place over the course of three years and involved 485 schoolchildren indicated that erythritol was even more effective than xylitol and sorbitol in preventing dental cavities.
Erythritol was found to be more effective against dental plaque and caries than either xylitol or sorbitol, according to a research evaluation conducted in 2016.
There is some evidence that erythritol can inhibit the growth of germs in the mouth. Additionally, in contrast to sugar, it does not provide a food source for the bacteria that create cavities.
It would appear that erythritol is a really good sweetener to use overall.
It has an extremely low caloric content.
It is sweeter than sugar by seventieth of a percentage point.
It does not cause an increase in either insulin or blood sugar levels.
Studies on humans have shown extremely few adverse effects, with the majority of persons experiencing just mild stomach problems.
No negative effects have been seen in studies in which animals were given extremely large quantities over an extended period of time.
People who are concerned about their health might decide to sweeten their food with stevia or honey instead. Honey, on the other hand, is full of calories and fructose, and the aftertaste of stevia is something that many people find unpleasant.
It would appear that erythritol has advantages in both of these areas.