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Erythritol: A Healthy Sweetener to Replace Processed Sugar

Erythritol is a naturally great sweetener and is extremely popular. It is a common sweetener in low-calorie foods, sweets, and bakery products. Erythritol is a carbohydrate that is a sugar alcohol and is a sugar substitute. It is a naturally occurring substance in many fruits like peaches, grapes, pears, watermelons, etc. It is also present in certain mushrooms. Erythritol appears in the form of crystal granules or powdered form. It has a very similar taste to table sugar. It is possible to use Erythritol in the same way as sugar. It’s acceptable to mix it into coffee or tea, sprinkle it on grapefruit, or use it in baking. Remember that this is a sugar substitute, not natural sugar. So your baked goods may have a different flavour or consistency than you’re used to. 

Despite its carbohydrate-based origin and name, the body does not absorb Erythritol, and its consumption will not lead to weight gain. Sugar alcohols offer the sweetening effect that this chemical provides. Sugar alcohols do not degrade in the body and do not contribute to your regular carbohydrate consumption.

Some studies show how Erythritol is toxic to fruit flies. As a result, agricultural firms may be able to employ it as an effective pesticide that is also safe for human consumption. We will discuss the effectiveness of reducing weight gain later in this text. When consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, Erythritol is unlikely to be hazardous. 

Erythritol Preparation

Erythritol gets produced when a species of yeast ferments glucose from corn or wheat starch. The finished product resembles powdered white crystals. It is a sugar alcohol that is common as a low-calorie sweetener. However, it only contains roughly 6% of the calories in the same amount of sugar. Preparing Erythritol is not something you can do at home due to the complexity of the whole process. You can, however, take Erythritol from the market and convert it into powder form with the help of a grinder.

The Science Behind This Healthy Sweetener

Erythritol is a critical concern in sugar substitute research since it is more challenging to produce than other polyols. Polyols are sugar-based alcohols made out of certain fruits and sugar-free sweeteners. Research shows that it is proving to be effective for consumption for people with IBS. However, Erythritol cannot be chemically manufactured in a commercially viable manner, necessitating a shift to biotechnological production. As a result, efforts have been made in this area to improve concentration, productivity, and yield. This summary will provide an overview of efforts to improve erythritol production and its evolution over time.

Erythritol is commonly made from GMO cornstarch and is an “invisible GMO component.” Because of its apparent capacity to kill bugs, you might be able to employ it as an insecticide in the future. Because it gives a sweet flavour without the insulin spike or increased poundage, this drug is the best choice for diabetics and individuals with weight and metabolic disorders. 

History and Development

Extracting Erythritol from natural sources such as fruits and vegetables is impractical because of their low erythritol concentration. In addition, unlike the other polyols, Erythritol is not preferred for chemical synthesis. It requires high temperatures and the nickel catalyst, resulting in a costly reaction with a low product yield. When traces of Erythritol in the residue of Cuban blackstrap molasses got detected, a thriving new option emerged. It led to biotechnological erythritol production.

Erythritol: How Safe is it?

Although Erythritol is one of the newest sugar alcohols on the market (Xylitol and mannitol have been available for longer), researchers have conducted many studies surrounding the sugar substitute on animals and people. The World Health Organization (WHO) approved Erythritol in 1999, and the FDA followed suit in 2001. It’s also safe for people with diabetes. Erythritol does not influence glucose or insulin levels. As a result, if you have diabetes, it is a safe sugar replacement. Studies show its anti-cariogenic and endothelial effects, making it protective. Erythritol-containing foods may still contain carbohydrates, calories, and fat, so read the label carefully.

Health Benefits of Erythritol

Erythritol may not have any particular health benefits as it has zero proteins, vitamins, sodium, etc. However, when substituted for sugar, Erythritol can help in reducing calories. Hence, it is immensely beneficial for diabetes and those looking to control or reduce their weight. On the other hand, poor oral health, cavities, and tooth damage are significant side effects of excessive sugar consumption. 

Sugar is used as energy by dangerous bacteria in the mouth. They produce acids that damage tooth enamel during the process. As a result, because oral germs cannot utilise sweet-tasting sugar alcohols like Erythritol for energy, they have become “tooth-friendly” products. Research on the impact of Erythritol on cavities has yielded conflicting results. Some studies suggest a decrease in plaque and dangerous germs, while others show no reduction in cavities. They reached the same conclusion in a 2016 scientific evaluation, which found that Erythritol is more efficient against tooth plaque.

Erythritol is also suitable for blood sugar control because, after consumption of Erythritol, it floats around the bloodstream until excreted through urine. When it does get excreted out of the body, it remains unchanged. This attribute makes it a potentially promising alternative for those who have diabetes.

Erythritol-Based Allergies

Erythritol allergies are rare. The most common allergy effect that Erythritol can have on a person is urticaria. While rare, some allergic reactions have occurred in a few European countries, Korea, Spain, and Japan. All responses showed after ingesting foods containing Erythritol.

A Case on Erythritol Consumption

A 24-year-old woman came in with terrible welts all over her body. Urticaria developed after she drank a glass of canned milk tea. When the doctors investigated the source of her skin reaction, they discovered that the drink included Erythritol, which was the cause of her urticaria. Because it contains no calories, Erythritol has become a popular artificial sweetener in various foods and beverages in the recent past. 

Adverse Effects of Erythritol

Although the body does not break down this artificial sweetener, it can have several adverse effects. The most common erythritol side effects include digestive issues and diarrhoea. Bloating, cramps and gas are other possible side effects. Furthermore, Erythritol and other sugar alcohols frequently cause an increase in water in the intestines, resulting in diarrhoea. Nausea and headaches are also possible side effects. These symptoms often occur due to dehydration and severe diarrhoea.

Chronic heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, and indigestion may occur from long-term gastrointestinal difficulties caused by continuous ingestion. These issues aren’t just unpleasant, but they also cause a great deal of stress. According to research, there is a strong link between stress and stomach problems. According to this research, the brain and the stomach have linkages, and the stomach is susceptible to our moods. Therefore, stress is a major cause of stomach problems. In addition, if you have chronic anxiety and eat a diet high in this artificial sweetener or other sugar alcohols, you compound the problem.

All sugar alcohols share the substance’s well-known laxative action. To feel these benefits, you must ingest a considerable dose of Erythritol. According to one study, consuming roughly half a gram of sweetener per pound of body weight is safe and will not cause any adverse effects. You need to drink more than 18 grams to have difficulties. However, no two human bodies are the same, so while consuming 18 grams or more of the chemical may affect you, it may not have a similar effect on your friend or neighbour.

Healthy Alternatives to Erythritol

There are a variety of sweeteners apart from Erythritol:

Stevia

It’s known as a non-nutritive sweetener. Also, it helps in blood sugar regulation in both animals and humans. It is available in both liquid and powdered form. Stevia is much sweeter than regular table sugar.

Sucralose

Splenda is the most popular sucralose-based sweetener on the market, and it’s popular since it doesn’t have the bitter flavour that many other artificial sweeteners do. However, unlike other sweeteners, sucralose is not an excellent alternative to sugar. When exposed to high temperatures, sucralose can create hazardous chemicals.

Xylitol

It has the same sweetness as sugar but only three calories per gram and 4 grams of carbohydrates per teaspoon. Large doses of Xylitol can lead to digestive issues, so reduce your intake if you experience any adverse effects.

Monk Fruit Sweetener

It includes natural sugars and antioxidant chemicals known as Mogrosides, which account for much of the fruit’s sweetness. Mogrosides may also stimulate insulin release, improving sugar transport out of the bloodstream and helping manage blood sugar levels. While some propose using an equal amount of monk fruit sweetener instead of sugar, others recommend lowering the amount in half.

Yacon Syrup

The yacon plants’ delicious nectar is high in fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a form of soluble fibre that your body cannot process. Indeed, both human and animal research has indicated that yacon syrup can help lower blood sugar and insulin levels, promoting blood sugar control.

Erythritol: Important Facts

Erythritol is a crystalline powder that is white and non-hygroscopic. It melts at around 121°C. In food processing, it has excellent pH and heat stability. When compared to sucrose, the relative sweetness is roughly 60. When it comes to sweetness, Erythritol compares favourably to sucrose. As a result, the application spectrum extends from beverages and dairy goods to candy and bread products. Zerose and Erylite are brand names. At the moment, the high prices prevent a broader application. 

The following erythritol qualities are of importance to food technologists:

If mixed with HISs, Erythritol provides zero calories, moderate sweetness, and a decrease in bulk sugar substitution.The solubility in water at room temperature is only 37%, far lower than sucrose. Therefore, it contributes less to viscosity than other sugars and polyols.When dissolved in the tongue, Erythritol provides a noticeable cooling effect, especially when combined with softer fats, such as in wafer creams. However, Erythritol may worsen the waxy mouthfeel of more complex fats used in hot climates when combined with them.The baking stability is excellent, and there is no browning (Maillard reaction plus caramelisation)Erythritol has a lot of potential in sugar-free rolled wafer cones and flute wafers. The plasticising action is almost double that of sucrose as a sugar substitute (US 7754268 B2), allowing for modest sweetness.Erythritol has no glycemic reaction and is ideal for developing wafers and waffles due to its low GI and carbohydrate content. It is also appropriate for people with diabetes.Erythritol is not fermentable and, thus, not cariogenic (tooth-friendly)Unlike other sugar alcohols, Erythritol has a high digestive tolerance, is practically non-laxative, and does not require warning labelling.

Summary

Overall, Erythritol appears to be a good sweetener. It is nearly devoid of calories. Erythritol contains 70% of the sweetness of sugar. It does not affect blood sugar or insulin levels. Reports suggest very few adverse effects, most of which are minor stomach concerns in certain people. Studies showed how almost 90% of it was absorbed but not metabolised. The metabolism is very low for it. The chances of allergic reactions are too low for any specific diagnosis. Animal studies, which fed large amounts of Erythritol to animals over long periods, indicate no adverse effects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What are the dangers of Erythritol?

A. Erythritol may cause bloating, cramps, and gas. In addition, Erythritol and other sugars often result in more water in the intestines, causing diarrhoea.

Q. Is Erythritol worse than sugar?

A. Erythritol does not raise blood sugar levels as it floats in the bloodstream and gets excreted in the urine. Therefore, Erythritol is an excellent replacement for sugar.

Q. Is Erythritol better than stevia?

A. Both Erythritol and stevia are alternatives for sugar. Neither of them raises your blood sugar levels and reduces the number of calories you consume. But Erythritol is better as it has lesser side effects compared to stevia.

Q. Does Erythritol make you gain weight?

A. High levels of Erythritol in the blood is a possible contributor to weight gain. However, its calorific value is insignificant and can be substituted for sugar to aid weight loss.

Q. Does Erythritol affect the liver?

A. Studies show that Erythritol improves nonalcoholic fatty liver disease by activating Nrf2 antioxidant capacity.

Q. Is erythritol Keto-friendly?

A. Erythritol is a good choice for keto as it has a few side effects, has no calories, and offers health benefits.

Q. What is the safest artificial sweetener?

Some of the safest sweeteners are A. Erythritol, stevia, Xylitol, monk fruit sweetener, and yacon syrup.

Q. Does Erythritol raise blood sugar levels?

A. No, Erythritol cannot raise blood sugar levels as it floats in the bloodstream and gets excreted through urine.

Q. Is Erythritol the same as Xylitol?

A. Xylitol has the same sweetness, taste, and volume as sugar and can be used. Erythritol is only around 70% as sweet as sugar. However, Xylitol has the same sweetness as sucrose.

Q. Is Erythritol inflammatory?

A. No, Erythritol Reduces Small Intestinal Inflammation Caused by High-Fat Diets and Enhances Glucose Tolerance.

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