What You Need to Know About Erythritol

erythritol

Story at-a-glance -

  • Erythritol is a sugar alcohol derived from fermenting the glucose of cornstarch, resulting in fewer calories and a less sweeter taste than regular sugar. But is it a safer alternative? Find out how erythritol can affect your health
  • Due to the potential dangers of using sugar alcohols, as well as artificial sweeteners, it is strongly recommend that you avoid both products and use natural, healthy substitutes instead

Sugar is one of the most devastating substances you can consume, which can result in long-term health problems. Plenty of research has been published regarding the dangers of consuming too much sugar, and these eye-opening effects include:

Liver damage: Too much sugar can damage your liver similarly to alcohol consumption by taxing and overloading the organ.

Metabolic dysfunction: Sugar can affect several biological processes throughout your body, causing a myriad of problems such as weight gain, abdominal obesity, elevated blood sugar levels and high blood pressure.

Increased uric acid levels: High levels of uric acid are considered to be a risk factor for heart and kidney disease.

In an effort to curb sugar consumption and addiction, researchers came up with artificial sweeteners. However, these products aren’t the best answer for your sweet cravings. Studies indicate that sucralose, aka Splenda, a popular brand of sweetener, may increase your risk of cancerous tumors, as evidenced in a mice study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.1

And, recent studies on both sucralose and aspartame, another artificial sweetener, show that instead of helping you lose weight, these sweeteners may actually cause you to gain weight and increase your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.2

Other options exist in the sweetener market, such as sugar alcohols, which are naturally occurring compounds found in several fruits and vegetables. However, the sugar alcohols most people are familiar with are made through various chemical processes to alter their composition for use as sweeteners and bulking agents.

The result is a product that tastes likes sugar, but has fewer calories. Popular sugar alcohols include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt, maltitol, lactitol and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH). For the most part these sugars are found in processed foods, from chewing gums to medicines, to desserts and soft drinks.3

But are sugar alcohols superior to regular sugar and/or alternative sweeteners? Evidence suggests that even these products may have a negative effect on your health. For example, foods containing mannitol that would add 20 grams of it to a person’s diet must be labeled, “Excess consumption may have a laxative effect.”4

Another sugar alcohol you need to be aware of is erythritol. In the following sections, you’ll learn how it’s made and the possible effects it may bring to your health.

What Is Erythritol?

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, a type of sweetener created by fermenting the glucose in cornstarch. The end product is estimated to have 70 percent of the sweetness of regular sugar with only 5 percent of the calories. Erythritol is also one of the main ingredients of Truvia, a well-known sweetener product.5

The low-calorie trait of erythritol is due to the fact that it is not digested or metabolized once consumed. Instead, it enters the bloodstream and is largely excreted in your urine, as discovered by a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.6 Another study indicates that erythritol is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine, and that only about 10 percent of the consumed amount enters the colon. Furthermore, researchers note that human gut flora does not ferment the sweetener.7

The Dangers of Using Erythritol

One of the main problems with using erythritol (and sugar alcohols in general) concerns diabetics, as it may harm them in the long run. Diabetics who purchase “sugar-free” items may think that the product they’re getting contains zero traces of any kind of sugar, but in actuality, sugar alcohols are used. This can cause their blood sugar levels to rise, especially when they overeat, as the foods containing erythritol may be high in carbohydrates, which contribute to elevated glucose levels.8

Furthermore, since erythritol is not as sweet as sugar, it is sometimes combined in foods with other artificial sweeteners that are many times sweeter than table sugar. As a result, you may unexpectedly ingest more harmful compounds that can eventually be detrimental to your health.9

Currently, erythritol is not considered a carcinogenic substance. In a study published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, no tumor-inducing or tumor-promoting effects were observed in rats fed with erythritol.10

Possible Side Effects of Consuming Erythritol

As of the moment, there are no severe side effects associated with erythritol consumption. However, erythritol may cause various digestive problems, such as flatulence, bloating and diarrhea, all of which are more commonly observed in children.11 One study suggests that erythritol may cause other problems such as colic, nausea, watery feces and borborygmi (a sound that gas makes as it moves through the intestines).12,13

Although erythritol in itself has zero calories, another problem you need to watch out for regarding erythritol is weight gain due to overeating. Eating foods laced with sugar alcohols may make you think that what you’re eating contains fewer calories, leading you to indulge a bit more, thus consuming more total calories.14

Healthy Substitutes for Erythritol: Stevia or Luo Han Guo

Due to the potential dangers of using sugar alcohols, as well as artificial sweeteners, I strongly recommend that you avoid both products and use natural, healthy substitutes instead, such as:

Stevia

Stevia is a plant with South American origins, and is known for its incredibly sweet-tasting leaves. A single serving alone is 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, which is why it’s used in moderation.

In addition, stevia may benefit your health thanks to its various plant compounds. Research suggests that it may help:15

Manage diabetes: The glycosides of stevia are absorbed and broken down by bacteria in the colon instead of the bloodstream, which may help reduce blood sugar spikes.

Promote healthy weight: Stevia is a zero-calorie food, which may help reduce the caloric content of the foods you normally eat with sugar.

Fight bacteria: Stevia has been found to have antimicrobial properties, which may help promote oral health.

Regulate blood pressure: The glycosides of stevia may help blood vessels to relax, as well as increase urination to help eliminate excess sodium in your body. In turn, these may help promote a healthy heart by maintaining blood pressure.

Luo Han Guo

Luo han guo is a fruit from China, and is about the size of an orange or large lemon. It also has a thin, brown shell that holds multiple seeds.

Fresh harvests occur during the fall season, but the fruit is often sold dried year-round due to its popularity.

Luo han guo is incredibly sweet, being 150 to 250 times sweeter than regular sugar. In addition, it has potential health benefits similar to stevia such as:16

Weight management

Controlling diabetes

Potential cancer chemopreventive

Research also indicates that luo han guo has vitamin C, which may help boost your immune system. Anti-inflammatory properties have been identified in luo han guo as well.17

Whichever Natural Sweetener You Choose, Use It Moderately

It’s clear that both stevia and luo han guo are superior alternatives to artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. But even then, remember to use them in moderation. If you have insulin resistance, you should avoid all forms of sweeteners to help reduce the risk of spiking your blood sugar levels. You can help curb sweet cravings by drinking organic black coffee or consuming fermented vegetables.

Frequently Asked Questions About Erythritol

Q: Is erythritol safe?

A: While there are no severe side effects associated with erythritol, it may cause a host of digestive problems, such as bloating and diarrhea, especially when consumed in excessive amounts. In addition, weight gain may also occur as a result of overeating foods containing erythritol, which can result in additional health problems.18

Q: Is erythritol healthy?

A: In addition to the reported side effects of erythritol, products that contain this sweetener are often combined with other artificial sweeteners. Consuming these foods can be detrimental to your health in the long run.19

Q: Where can you buy erythritol?

A: Erythritol can be purchased online or in brick and mortar stores. However, it’s better to avoid it and use safe, natural sweeteners like stevia and luo han guo instead.

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