Erythritol: Uses, Benefits, and Risks
Erythritol: Uses, Benefits, and Risks

Janis

By Janis | Updated December 4, 2023

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that has gained popularity as a low-calorie sweetener. It offers the sweet taste of sugar with a fraction of the calories, making it an attractive option for those looking to reduce their sugar intake.

This sugar substitute is naturally found in some fruits and fermented foods and contains fewer calories than regular sugar or other more popular sugar forms.

When using erythritol, you can enjoy the sweetness of sugar without the downside of added calories and potential health risks. So go ahead and indulge in your favorite sweet treats while embracing a healthier alternative with erythritol.

As you explore erythritol’s uses and benefits, it’s essential to consider any potential risks and how it fits into your overall nutrition goals.

What is Erythritol?

Erythritol is a natural sweetener belonging to the sugar alcohol family, known as polyols. 

It’s found in various fruits like pears, melons, and grapes, as well as in mushrooms and fermented foods such as wine and soy sauce. It’s considered a low-calorie alternative to sugar due to its unique properties.

It has a low-calorie content, 0.24 calories per gram, which distinguishes it from other sugar alcohols like xylitol, which has 2.4 calories per gram.

How It’s Made

This sweetener is created by fermenting yeast with glucose derived from corn or wheat starch. Its structure shares similarities with other sugar alcohols, such as xylitol; however, erythritol offers specific advantages.

Due to fermentation, erythritol does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels, making it a safer option for persons with diabetes. Moreover, it contains almost zero calories, making it an attractive choice for those looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Erythritol As a Substitute

You might find erythritol as a popular substitute for sugar in various sweet products to reduce calories. Other common sugar alcohols include xylitol and maltitol, while stevia and monk fruit are also popular non-sugar sweeteners.

The taste of erythritol is quite similar to sugar, making it an attractive option for those looking to decrease calorie intake without sacrificing sweetness. As a natural compound, it does not typically cause side effects when consumed in moderation.

Erythritol provides a natural, zero-calorie sweetening option with a taste comparable to sugar. It’s an ideal choice for those seeking sugar substitutes in their diet.

Is Erythritol Safe?

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that naturally occurs in fruits and fermented foods. It has been used as a low-calorie sweetener due to its zero-calorie nature. But naturally you may wonder about its safety.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) classifies erythritol as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for consumption. 

This classification is based on extensive research conducted on erythritol’s safety in humans and animals. However, some studies suggest that consuming large amounts of erythritol might cause side effects. It is therefore important to moderate your intake.

Erythritol Side Effects

Erythritol is deemed safe, but if consuming significant amounts, you may experience some side effects.

Stomach Gas and Bloat

Erythritol, although beneficial as a zero-calorie sweetener, may cause bloating in some individuals.

This relates to its non-absorbability in the large intestine. As our bodies cannot fully break down erythritol, it can lead to increased gas production, discomforting flatulence, and a swollen or bloated feeling in the abdomen.

This side effect is more apparent in individuals with sensitive digestion. Those with irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive issues might experience bloating more severely. 

However, these side effects vary among individuals, and eating smaller amounts of erythritol may help mitigate discomfort. Individuals sensitive to FODMAP foods may want to test their tolerance to erythritol cautiously.

Diarrhea

Erythritol, given its non-absorbable nature, may induce diarrhea in some people. It often happens when consumed in large amounts, as it draws water into the intestine, stimulating bowel movements and potentially causing diarrhea.

Note that sensitivity to erythritol varies among individuals, with some experiencing these effects at lower intake levels. Therefore, it’s recommended to start with small quantities to assess tolerance before incorporating it regularly into your diet.

Stomach Cramps or Pain

For some individuals, excessive intake of erythritol can lead to digestive discomfort. 

Stomach cramps and pain are among the reported side effects when consumed in large quantities.

Increased Thirst or Dry Mouth

Erythritol consumption in certain individuals may cause a sensation of dryness in the mouth. 

This can subsequently lead to increased thirst, prompting a higher fluid intake than usual.

Nausea

Erythritol can trigger nausea in some individuals, presenting as a discomfort in the upper stomach. This usually occurs after consuming larger quantities, making it advisable to exercise moderation when using this sugar substitute.

Those with a low threshold for sugar alcohol may experience nausea more often. Hence, a slow introduction and gradual increase in the amount of erythritol might help mitigate this side effect.

Benefits of Erythritol

Erythritol offers several health advantages over traditional sugars and sweeteners. As awareness about sugar’s health implications grows, alternatives like erythritol are gaining prominence.

A Natural Alternative

Unlike many artificial sweeteners, erythritol is a natural sugar substitute. It is found naturally in a variety of fruits and fermented foods, adding to its appeal to health-conscious consumers.

Though it is commercially produced through fermentation of glucose, its natural occurrence helps assuage concerns about synthetic chemicals often associated with artificial sweeteners. This positions erythritol as a preferred choice among natural, low-calorie sweeteners.

Safe for People with Diabetes

Erythritol is commonly used as a low-calorie sweetener. One primary attribute of erythritol is that it does not spike your blood sugar or insulin levels. Its carbohydrates are not metabolized into sugar, reducing the risk of blood sugar spikes.

Unlike traditional sugar, erythritol has minimal effects on blood sugar control. Erythritol has a glycemic index of zero, meaning it does not increase blood sugar. This feature makes erythritol popular among people with diabetes.

Being a safe alternative to regular sugar, it allows persons with diabetes to enjoy sweetness without causing significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

Other sweeteners, like saccharin and aspartame, may still raise blood sugar, but erythritol stands apart due to its stability.

Dental Health Benefits

Erythritol may have a positive impact on your dental health. Unlike regular sugar, it does not contribute to tooth decay or cavities. This sugar substitute is non-cariogenic, meaning it doesn’t promote the growth of harmful bacteria in your mouth.

In fact, erythritol can help reduce dental plaque on your teeth. This is because it inhibits the growth of bacteria such as streptococcus mutans, which is a primary cause of plaque buildup and tooth decay.

Additionally, erythritol does not contribute to the breakdown of tooth enamel. Tooth enamel protects your teeth from decay, and erythritol’s low caloric value prevents it from causing any damage. 

As a result, using erythritol can help maintain the overall health of your teeth.

Remember, while erythritol may offer dental health benefits, it’s essential to maintain proper oral hygiene practices such as regular brushing and flossing to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

No Aftertaste

Some sugar substitutes have a bitter or chemical aftertaste, but erythritol is often praised for its clean, sweet taste that closely resembles sugar.

This characteristic makes it a preferred choice for many seeking a seamless sugar replacement in recipes.

Safe for Cooking and Baking

Erythritol is heat-stable, meaning it doesn’t break down during cooking or baking, making it a versatile substitute for sugar in recipes.

Its stable nature allows it to retain its sweetness when exposed to high temperatures, making it ideal for cooking and baking. Users can easily incorporate it into various recipes without fearing alteration in flavor profiles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is erythritol safe for those with diabetes?

Erythritol is considered safe for people with diabetes. As a sugar alcohol, it is not metabolized by the body, so it does not raise blood glucose or insulin levels.

However, as with any dietary change, individuals with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar levels when first incorporating erythritol into their diet to ensure no adverse reactions. Always consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

What are the side effects of erythritol consumption?

Erythritol is generally well-tolerated, but some people may experience side effects such as bloating, gas, or diarrhea when consumed in large amounts.

However, these side effects tend to be less severe than those associated with other sugar alcohols.

How does erythritol compare to other sugar substitutes?

Erythritol is a low-calorie sweetener that has almost zero calories, zero carbs, and a zero glycemic index score.

In comparison to other sugar substitutes, erythritol is less likely to cause digestive upset and doesn’t impact blood sugar levels, making it a popular choice for those following low-carb or sugar-free diets.