When trying to remove carbs from our diet, what to use for that occasional sweet treat is a question that can quickly become confusing. One choice that has become popular and more readily available recently is erythritol. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol naturally found in fruits like pears and grapes.(2) It has a very small percentage of calories per gram compared to table sugar. Table sugar has 4 calories per gram while erythritol has only .24 calories per gram, but nearly all of the sweet taste of sugar.
Other popular sweeteners in the sugar alcohol family are maltitol and xylitol, but erythritol seems to cause less digestive upset than those choices. Other sugar alcohols can draw in fluid and cause diarrhea, which is why they are normally only used in gums and candies in small amounts instead of products that require larger amounts of sweetener such as soft drinks. (2)
The majority of erythritol does not appear be metabolized by the human body and is excreted unmodified into the urine without changing blood glucose and insulin levels. (1) Nearly 90% is absorbed before it reaches the colon and the 10% that is left doesn’t ferment and cause as much gas as the other sugar alcohols.(3) Another benefit is that it seems to actually have some antioxidant properties and may help protect against vascular damage caused by too much sugar. (4)
Erythritol also seems to be safer than the other low calorie alternative sweeteners because it hasn’t been implicated in fibromyalgia, preterm birth, headaches, hypertension, brain or platelet disorders and it doesn’t cause cavities. (2) Erythritol seems to be even more effective than xylitol at inhibiting cavities. (5)
So in summary erythritol is a sweet sweetener. It’s safe, has almost no calories or side effects, good for your teeth and doesn’t raise your blood sugar.
- Regnat, K et al. “Erythritol as sweetener-wherefrom and whereto?.” Applied microbiology and biotechnology vol. 102,2 (2018): 587-595. doi:10.1007/s00253-017-8654-1
- Greger, Michael MD. How Not to Die. Flatiron Books. New York. 2015
- Hiele, M et al. “Metabolism of erythritol in humans: comparison with glucose and lactitol.” The British journal of nutrition vol. 69,1 (1993): 169-76. doi:10.1079/bjn19930019
- den Hartog, Gertjan J M et al. “Erythritol is a sweet antioxidant.” Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.) vol. 26,4 (2010): 449-58. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2009.05.004
- de Cock, Peter et al. “Erythritol Is More Effective Than Xylitol and Sorbitol in Managing Oral Health Endpoints.” International journal of dentistry vol. 2016 (2016): 9868421. doi:10.1155/2016/9868421