Erythritol, a sugar alcohol, is a commonly used ingredient added to foods that call themselves sugar free or ones that contain no added sugar. And if you’re a diabetic, cutting down on sugar or dieting for weight loss, then you would have heard of the artificial sweetener erythritol, in all likelihood. Erythritol tastes just like sugar and has almost zero calories. Let’s take a closer look at what this common food additive is all about, and if it is as safe as we think it is.
What Exactly Is It?
Erythritol, available as granules or in powdered form, is a sugar alcohol that is added to foods that are labeled ‘sugar free’. It tastes just like sugar and has almost zero calories. It is approved for use in the United States and many other countries. Other commonly known and used sugar alcohols are Xylitol or Sorbitol.
Can It Give You An Upset Stomach?
Unlike other sugar alcohols like sorbitol or xylitol, erythritol consists of small molecules and almost all of it gets absorbed in the small intestine and comes out unchanged, through urine. Which is why, in small amounts, it is digested better than other sugar alcohols. The tolerance to erythritol is seen to vary among people. Some have reported diarrhea and gastric upset with even regular amounts in food and beverages, while others have been able to digest it without any issues. The amount needed to cause gastric upset also varies in people. But as a general rule of thumb, ingesting more than 50 grams of erythritol may cause gastric symptoms like nausea and a rumbling stomach.
Can It Cause A Spike In Sugar Levels Or Insulin?
Erythritol has a glycemic index of zero, and has been known to show no impact on blood sugar or insulin levels, which is why it is a favorite among people following a low-carb diet. Many studies conducted on this have reported that erythritol does not increase serum levels of glucose or insulin in the body. They also confirmed that it doesn’t cause any significant changes in the levels of total cholesterol or free fatty acids.
A Disadvantage Of All Artificial Sweeteners
If you eat food sweetened conventionally, your brain is able to figure out that you’ve eaten, and signals your body to release hormones that decrease the appetite. A great disadvantage of all artificial sweeteners is that they pass through the body undigested and aren’t able to signal the brain to release hormones that make you feel satiated. This means that you’ll not feel satisfied after eating and will opt to eat more, which defeats the purpose of using artificial sweeteners in the first place.
Bid Goodbye To Tooth Decay!
A great advantage of using erythritol as a sweetener, is that it does not encourage tooth decay, unlike sugar. This happens as the cavity causing bacteria in the mouth need sugar to help them grow and multiply and erode our teeth. Erythritol cannot be processed by the bacteria in our mouth and they can’t grow or cause cavities.
What Happens To Erythritol Inside Our Body?
Ninety percent of the erythritol that we consume, is absorbed by our small intestines and after traveling through the bloodstream is excreted as urine, and only the remaining 10 percent enters the colon. Which means that most of the erythritol that we consume is absorbed into the body before it gets to the colon. This is what makes erythritol different from the other sugar alcohols that have a laxative effect on some people.
The Final Verdict?
Erythritol, as we just saw, doesn’t cause tooth decay, doesn’t spike the sugar and insulin levels in the blood and contains almost no calories. Also, it does not upset the stomach if consumed well within the specified limit of 50 grams. Having said that, it’s still a good idea to err on the side of caution and not go overboard with foods containing erythritol, as these foods may not contain sugar as such, but will contain significant amounts of calories as fats and carbohydrates and if you are choosing food sweetened with sugar alcohols to lose weight, it may not help you with your weight loss targets, as much as you think it will.