Erythritol: Debunking False Narratives

Erythritol: Debunking False Narratives

Feb 21, 2024Sensible Edibles

Today, we want to talk about our favorite sugar alternative: erythritol. What is it? What are the benefits? Is it dangerous? You may have heard some recent negative press, but is there any scientific basis for it or is it just fear mongering and click-bait? Let’s dive in.

What is Erythritol?


Erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol. In the human body, erythritol can be found in our eye lens tissue, plasma, red blood cells, and urine.

There are trace amounts in fruits like lemons, pears, and grapes. Erythritol is also created during the fermentation process of foods such as wine, cheese, and soy sauce.

Benefits

There are many reasons to love erythritol. It doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels, which is great for diabetics who are monitoring their glucose and insulin levels. About 90% of erythritol passes through the body unchanged and is excreted undigested.

When consumed in moderation, erythritol doesn’t cause digestive issues like nausea or constipation like other sugar substitutes and it doesn’t have an aftertaste. Erythritol also inhibits bacterial growth in the mouth, thus protecting against cavities. Don’t be surprised to find it in your toothpaste!

Erythritol is also vegan, gluten free, and low in calories. It has just 0.24 calories per gram, while other sugar alternatives usually contain 2-3 calories per gram, and refined table sugar has 4 calories per gram. Erythritol is 70% as sweet as sugar, so a reasonable amount can provide satisfying sweetness.

Recommended Use

While erythritol is found in nature, when used as a sugar substitute, our exposure to it is multiplied exponentially. This has raised concerns about the what the healthy limit of consumption is and whether too much can be a bad thing. The FDA categorizes erythritol as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) and they have not set a recommended daily limit of consumption. The EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) recommends a daily intake limit of .5 grams per kg (2.2lbs) of body weight per day. This is meant to safeguard against any potential laxative effects and mitigate against potential long-term effects which still need to be studied.

The Research

There have been a few studies conducted on both animals and humans, but researchers are calling for more, especially concerning long-term effects. Here is a sampling of a few noteworthy studies on erythritol:

  • 2019 study: erythritol could improve blood pressure after a meal.
  • 2010 study: erythritol could serve as an antioxidant that could protect blood vessels against damage from diabetes.
  • 1994 study: erythritol doesn’t affect blood sugar levels. No link between erythritol and changes in cholesterol, triglycerides, or carbohydrate metabolism.
  • 2017 study: the association between erythritol and obesity in young adults may be due to the body’s own production of the compound.
  • 2014 study: erythritol is harmful to fruit flies and could be used as a pesticide safe for human consumption.
  • 2021 studies on mice: showed inconsistent findings regarding erythritol’s effects on body weight.
  • 2022 study: this was a study conducted on people with pre-existing cardiovascular symptoms. The group of subjects which had the highest levels of MACE (major adverse cardiovascular events such as heart attacks) were also found to have higher erythritol levels in their systems. But that was not the only difference between groups. The higher MACE subjects were also statistically older than the other groups, and had “higher incidences of diabetes, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarctions, congestive heart failure, and greater triglycerides.” No clear link was made between erythritol specifically and MACE. In addition, no data was collected from the subjects regarding their intake of erythritol. Furthermore, the subjects of the study had enrolled in the program before erythritol even became a common food additive. The authors of the study noted that there was only association and not causation.

Our Take

The ongoing research only reinforces its safety and benefits from our point of view. There is no conclusive evidence suggesting that erythritol causes negative health outcomes. The fact that our own body produces erythritol further complicates research and more studies should be conducted. We feel that erythritol’s clear benefits far outweigh any potential risks. Remember, moderation is the key to enjoying life's sweetest moments. Cheers to a healthier, sweeter you!

 

 

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