Erythritol is a sugar alcohol (polyol). It has a good flavour comparable to sugar but with a slight cooling effect.
It has little or no aftertaste. It has only 0.2 calories per gram, 5% of the value of sugar. And because it has 65% of the sweetness of sugar this makes it excellent as part of a calorie controlled diet.
It also has a low glycemic index and is consequently suitable for diabetics. It is a natural product found in some fruits and mushrooms. It has been used as a sugar substitute in Japan since the 1990s.
It does not tend to have the laxative effect, as do other sugar alcohols, though again, it would be wise to limit consumption to no more than 80gm per day.
It is used in the beverage industry in the USA and Japan. It can also be used in food manufacture and chocolate, though usually it needs to be mixed with other sweeteners to achieve the required texture and sweetness level. It is heat stable and can be used for cooking at home. It is a major ingredient of Truvia sweetener.
It has a very low glycemic index (Only 1 - sugar is 65) and this makes it suitable as part of a diabetic diet. Like all sugar alcohols it is not metabolized by bacteria in the mouth and so it does not contribute to tooth decay. Xylitol and Sorbitol have been shown to be beneficial in the prevention of caries and tooth decay, in fact they have been shown to assist in remineralization of minor enamel defects. Trials have shown Erythritol to be at least as good, and possibly more effective than Xylitol in this regard.
Sugar alcohols are not readily digested in the stomach, they enter the intestines where bacteria ferment them. This results is partial absorption of calories from the carbohydrate present, and often flatulence. Unlike all other sugar alcohols, Erythritol is mostly absorbed into the blood stream from the small intestine, where it is excreted in the urine. Therefore it does not add calories to the diet, and is less likely to cause bloating, gas or cramps.
No major concerns. Just avoid over consumption - like everything else! In rare cases some individuals can be allergic to this substance.
The FDA does not issue any recommendation for ADI (acceptable daily intake) NCIB trials found it to be safe at levels of 1gm per kg of body weight. For an average person this would be 70 to 80gm per day.
CSPI (US) Recommendation
The recommendation issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (US) for this substance is - SAFE
It is produced commercially by the fermentation of plant sugars. In the first stage maize or or another crop is separated into starch. This is then subject to enzymatic hydrolysis into glucose. Yeast fermentation converts the glucose into a broth which is crystallized. Non GM ingredients can be used at all stages of the process.
It is sold in crystal and powdered form. The powdered form is preferable. C*Eridex, ZSweet are a few brands. Cargill sell a product called Zerose.
Very expensive! On the bulk market it is about 5 times the price of sugar by weight, and because it is less sweet it ends up about 7 times the price per unit of sweetness. Sells on Amazon for about $8 per pound.
Erythritol Market Share:
It has a tiny market share globally, about 0.05 million tons per annum. Market share is growing.
Use of erythritol in manufactured foods has been slow catching on. Usually it is combined with other sweeteners. One spoon of sugar contains 16 calories. To achieve the same sweetness it would be necessary to consume only 1 calorie of erythritol, so it can be of great benefit as part of a calorie controlled diet. It is marketed in the USA as an all natural product, but this may or may not not be true depending on the method of production. Nevertheless it has many benefits. It looks feels and tastes very like sugar with no aftertaste. It is mainly absorbed in the small intestine and so does not tend to cause the laxative effect of other sugar alcohols.
It is approved for use in most countries, in the USA it has FDA approval and no warnings are required. It gained EU approval in 2008 as food additive E968.
Conclusions and Summary:
Excellent low calorie sweetener. It is suitable and useful for diabetics. It is not only harmless to teeth but has been shown to inhibit decay and even assist in partial tooth remineralization. Not yet widely available, though this is improving. Can be used in cooking with very good results. Often mixed with other intense sweeteners such as stevia.
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