Though it sounds new, erythritol (ear-RITH-ri-tall) has been around as long as grapes, peaches, pears, watermelon, and mushrooms. It's a type of carbohydrate called a sugar alcohol that people use as a sugar substitute.
Erythritol is found naturally in some foods. It's also made when things like wine, beer, and cheese ferment.
Besides its natural form, erythritol has also been a man-made sweetener since 1990. You can find it with other sugar substitutes in stores and online.
It's also sold in bulk to companies that use it to sweeten or thicken products like reduced-calorie and sugar-free foods and drinks. You'll often find it mixed with popular sugar substitutes like aspartame, stevia, and Truvia to make them sweeter.
Calories. Sugar has 4 calories per gram, but erythritol has zero. That's because your small intestine absorbs it quickly and gets it out of your body through urine within 24 hours. This means erythritol doesn't have a chance to "metabolize" -- turn into energy in your body.
Safety. Though erythritol powder is one of the newer sugar alcohols on the market -- xylitol and mannitol have been around longer -- researchers have done a number of studies of it in animals and humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) approved erythritol in 1999, and the FDA did the same in 2001.
It's also OK for people with diabetes. Erythritol has no effect on glucose or insulin levels. This makes it a safe sugar substitute if you have diabetes. Foods that contain erythritol may still contain carbohydrates, calories, and fat, so it's important to check the label.
Taste. Erythritol tastes sweet. It's similar to table sugar.
Appearance. It's in the form of white crystal granules or powder.
Overall, erythritol appears to be very safe.Multiple studies on its toxicity and effects on metabolism have been performed in animals.Despite long-term feeding of high amounts of erythritol, no serious side effects have been detected.There is one major caveat to most sugar alcohols — they can cause digestive issues.
Due to their unique chemical structure, your body can’t digest them, and they pass unchanged through most of your digestive system, or until they reach the colon.
In the colon, they are fermented by the resident bacteria, which produce gas as a side product.Consequently, eating high amounts of sugar alcohols may cause bloating and digestive upset. In fact, they belong to a category of fiber known as FODMAPs.
However, erythritol is different than the other sugar alcohols. Most of it gets absorbed into the bloodstream before it reaches the colon.It circulates in the blood for a while, until it is eventually excreted unchanged in the urine. About 90% of erythritol is excreted this way.
Although erythritol doesn't have any serious side effects, eating high amounts may cause digestive upset, as explained in the next chapter.
Erythritol is an artificial sweetener commonly used in low-sugar and sugar-free foods. It is designed to replace sugar and calories to create “diet-friendly” results. Powdered erythritol sweeteners bake in a way almost identical to sugar and are made by combining and fermenting certain natural sugars. Corn is frequently used to create the sweetener; however, it is also found naturally in watermelon, soy sauce, and pears, among other foods. Such foods include fermented options such as cheese, as well as fermented beverages including wine and sake. It is classified as a carbohydrate according to the FDA and is used not only to add sweetness to foods, but texture and bulk as well. The sweetener also prevents browning and dryness issues.
Despite its carb label, erythritol is not absorbed by the body and will not contribute to weight gain. The sweetening effect this substance provides comes from sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols do not break down in the body and therefore do not contribute to your daily carbohydrate intake.
Erythritol is generally crafted from GMO cornstarch and has been referred to as an “invisible GMO ingredient.” It may be used as an insecticide in the future due to its apparent ability to kill bugs. This substance is frequently marketed to diabetics and those with weight and metabolic issues because it provides a sweet taste without the insulin spike or added poundage.
When used in moderation, most pregnant women can safely use any of the eight nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — assuming they are not contributing to excess weight gain.
Still, the truth is that sugar substitutes can be a bit of a mixed bag for pregnant women. Even though they are mostly considered safe, artificial sweeteners in particular may increase your baby's risk of being overweight later on.
More research is needed to fully understand how artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes affect a baby’s development in utero. Here's what you need to know about the different types of artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes you might see on food and beverage labels.
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