So what is erythritol exactly?
Erythiritol is a hydronated form of carbohydrate used as a replacement for sugar. Chemically erythritol is known as 1,2,3,4-butanetetrol. It’s a natural C4 polyol and is 60-80% of the sweetness of sugar. Erythritol is one of the sugar alcohols, you might have also heard of xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol.
Erythiritol is often claimed to be “natural” because it can be found in nature such as in seaweeds, fungi/mushrooms, and fruits like melons, grapes and pears. The erythiritol metabolite can also be found in fermented foods like soy auce and miso, wine, beer, and cheese.
It’s only been in our food supply since 1990 and is used to sweeten foods. It’s also “used as a flavor enhancer, formulation aid, humectants, nutritive sweetener, stabilizer and thickener, sequestrant and texturizer”. (1)
How Is Erythritol Produced?
Since erythritol is now a commonly used sweetener, it gets produced in large amounts using a chemical and fermentation process. Most commonly on a large scale it gets produced using “fermentative processes with pure glucose, sucrose, and glucose from chemically and enzymatically hydrolyzed wheat and corn starches”. (2) It can also be made through particular species of yeast and bacteria used in combo, or made by lactic acid bacteria. The fermented solution is then purified and crystalised into a pure polyol (sugar alcohol). Erythritol is often found in combo with other sweeteners such as stevia. It helps to buff them both out and distribute the sweet flavour more evenly.
Erythritol in the body
90% of erythritol does not get metabolised by the body. It does get absorbed in the small intestine but does not ‘uptake’ into the body but all gets excreted in urine. It does not affect blood glucose or insulin levels so has been promoted safe for consumption on a diabetic diet.
Interestingly one study has shown that erythritol has a protective effect on diabetic stress to the endothelium. The endothelium is the thin layer of cells that lines all the blood vessels and lymph vessels in the body. These linings get affected in a negative way by diabetes and can contribute to health complications. Erythritol does not influence a person with normal blood sugar in the same way but only influences diabetics and according to this study could provide a slight beneficial effect on health. (1)
Studies have been conducted with high doses of erythritol and it appears no toxic affects or side affects have been noted.
So Is It Safe To Eat?
Well, it is an approved food additive and the logic is that erythritol has been consumed by humans for centuries in the form of fruits and other foods.
As far as sugar alcohols go it’s one of the best because it is produced by “natural” means and this makes it one of the better ones to handle for most people as far as digestion goes. Whereas some of the other sugar alcohols cause stomach upsets such as diarrhea, gas, bloating, and cramps. This is because it has a very small molecule size compared to the other ‘tols’.
If you’re on a strict no sugar diet plan or low carb plan then you might consider using it. I personally couldn’t find any information about reported side affects or studies to prove any adverse affects to health otherwise. But it’s also important to note that overall I couldn’t find many studies at all. Being that it’s only been around since 1990 means that maybe it’s too soon to see long term effects, I don’t know.
It’s certainly better than aspartame and does make stevia a little more tolerable for most people and makes it better for baking too.
You’ll find erythritol in products like Natvia and Truvia which can be found in supermarkets today. These are a combo of stevia and erythritol.
Now you now how it is made and some of the facts I guess the verdict is up to you.
So I hope you find this info helpful and if you do please share it with your firends 🙂
P.S. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter to receive more great nutrition info and tips.
1. Danielle M, Boesten J, Berger A, Cock P, Don H, Hammock BD, Gertjan MJ, et al. Multi-Targeted Mechanisms Underlying the Endothelial Protective Effects of the Diabetic-Safe Sweetener Erythritol. Plos One. 2013 Jun; 8(6):e65741.
2. Moon HJ, Jeya M, Kim I Lee JK. Biotechnological production of erythritol and its applications. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2010; 86:1017–1025.