Alcohol sugars are becoming more popular ingredients in various processed foods and drinks. With weight loss and obesity concerns, manufacturers have been opting for alcohol sugars since they have no calories and do not contribute to any weight gain like normal table sugar.
Although the benefits may seem awesome, there are some great concerns over the safety of such sugars. What’s more, the varieties found in most energy drinks and products are ultra-processed and look nothing like the natural sweeteners found in some plants and foods.
Erythritol is one of the alcohol sugars that have been increasingly featured in sports drinks and energy drinks as a sugar substitute. Here is a descriptive review of the ingredient, including its benefits, possible side effects, and the top products that contain it.
What Is Erythritol?
As aforesaid, Erythritol is basically an alcohol sugar added to various drinks and products as a sweetener.
It is a 4-carbon polyol (sugar-alcohol) with 60% to 80% of the sweetness found in conventional table sugar. Erythritol occurs naturally in fruits such as watermelon, grapes, and pears, and also in some fermented foods.
It falls within a broad category of other alcohol sugars like sorbitol, maltitol, lactitol, xylitol, and mannitol, among others. The sugar was discovered back in 1848 by Scottish John Stenhouse and has been used in candies, chocolate, jellies, yogurt, jams, and beverages since 1990.
The FDA labels Erythritol as generally safe, and it is commonly used in sugar-free gums, some medications, drinks, and processed foods.
The benefits of Erythritol are quite obvious and straightforward. They mainly revolve around weight loss and caloric balance. Like most alcohol sugars, Erythritol is not metabolized by the human body.
It is only absorbed into blood and passes to the kidneys, where it is excreted through urination. For this reason, it does not add any calories regardless of the amount consumed. This is also why it is highly recommended as a sugar substitute and used in sugar-free foods and products.
Erythritol is loved for its lack of calories and does not cause a blood-sugar spike. It is therefore favorable for diabetics and those who seek weight management.
Some studies have also revealed that Erythritol can reduce teeth plaque and does not contribute to decay like other forms of sugar. The study was conducted on junior-school kids where one group was given Erythritol and the other Xylitol.
Follow up examinations indicated fewer cavities in those who consumed Erythritol than those given Xylitol. This is because it denies oral bacteria the fuel (sugar) needed to grow and cause harm. To the manufacturers, Erythritol is readily available in some fruits and fermented foods, making it easy to extract and process.
A summary of the top Erythritol benefits include the following:
- Ideal alternative to table sugar
- Does not contain any calories
- Ideal for weight management
- Protects from tooth decay and plaque
- Usable in sugar-free diets for the diabetic
- Non-glycemic (does not raise your blood sugar)
- Has antioxidant properties
Possible Side Effects Of Erythritol
Although Erythritol has many benefits for those who want to cut down their sugar intake, there are some concerns with regards to possible side effects. In fact, studies have shown that Erythritol can be potentially harmful if taken in large amounts. However, these concerns stem from the use of GMO-based Erythritol.
Due to the cheap availability of GMO corn, many manufacturers provide GMO Erythritol, which can have several undesirable side effects ranging from diarrhea to headache, stomachache, and other gastrointestinal issues.
Concerns have also been raised about possible SIBO (small-intestine-bacteria-overgrowth), which can cause various digestive and gastrointestinal issues, including irritable bowel syndrome.
What’s more, some studies have revealed Erythritol as an excellent insecticide, and while this should be an advantage, it does not settle quite well as a consumed sweetener. Lastly, Erythritol only has 60-80% of the sweetness of sugar.
It is commonly combined with other artificial sweeteners and flavors to have a rich taste.
Top Erythritol Products
There are several products that contain Erythritol, some GMO and others non-GMO.
It is recommendable to avoid all GMO-corn Erythritol as such offers are linked with various side effects. Non-GMO Erythritol, on the other hand, can be very helpful, and these are the products you should consider.
Of course, other factors like manufacturer reputation, user reviews and comments, safety information, approval, and additional ingredients are still important to evaluate.
Some of the top Erythritol products in the market include:
Now Foods Erythritol Natural-Sweetener
This is one of the best market offers you will come across. It contains 100% natural non-GMO Erythritol and comes in finely sieved soluble powder form. It can be used in sugar-free recipes at home as a natural sweetener without the sugar spikes and calories.
Z Sweet Natural Erythritol
This is another top option in the market, although more expensive than Now Foods. Z-Sweet offers a pure form of Erythritol derived from organic corn and has a more powerful flavor than other top brands.
It is ideal for those who want high-end Erythritol for a specific sugar-free diet.
This is also a very popular brand that offers both powder and granulated Erythritol. Like the other two, it uses organic corn to manufacture pure non-GMO sweeteners devoid of the side effects mentioned above.
It also has a cooling effect which is interesting considering other brands have actually been linked with a possible heating effect, since the Erythritol is not metabolized. There are other good products, but these three are the best brands according to most reviews and customers.
Erythritol Final Words
Erythritol is a popular sugar alcohol that features in most processed foods and drinks. It has been evaluated by the FDA and deemed as generally safe in small amounts used in these products. However, the sugar is not recognized or metabolized by the body, and this can sometimes have temporary side effects, especially when taken in large amounts.
Some manufacturers also use up to 90% GMO corn to make their Erythritol, so you should always check the label for a non-GMO insignia if you want to be cautious.
In overall, the sugar alcohol has more benefits than side effects and performs better than most alternatives within its category. It is advisable to purchase from credible licensed stores that can guarantee top quality Erythritol products.
More importantly, remain updated with ongoing research aimed at identifying potential benefits and side effects to learn more about the ingredient.