The world of sweeteners increasingly offers more and better alternatives to sugar, which is lately demonized. On this website we have already commented on some of the main ones, but we can not forget the erythritol, since it has many advantages and very few side effects.
Erythritol is a product of natural origin and has a taste very similar to that of common sugar, with the exception that it does not provide energy or calories, something very beneficial for our diet and for food production.
However, in recent years its use has been questioned based on different reports produced, so we wanted in this article to unify the different opinions about this natural sweetener and find clear answers and scientific evidence about its use.
What exactly is erythritol?
Erythritol is considered a sugar substitute with zero caloric intake, and is classified as a sugar alcohol.
Among this category of products we find other sweeteners such as sorbitol, maltitol or xylitol, which are usually widely used in the production of food, pastries, desserts, canned goods and even chewing gum.
Many of these alcohols are not artificial and can be found in small concentrations in vegetables or fruits, for example. However, in the molecular structure of erythritol there are notable differences compared to the others mentioned.
In comparison of sweetness, with many fewer calories provided, erythritol is able to cover 70% of the natural sweetness produced by consuming conventional table sugar.
Health authorities in major countries have classified erythritol as a very safe and safe substance for consumption.
To reach these conclusions, extensive toxicological studies have been carried out and the short, medium and long-term response in the metabolic activity of animals and humans has been analyzed.
Some scientific reports state that there are no side effects with long-term consumption of erythritol. [Erythritol Toxicity Study].
However, the first criticisms that were made of this sugar substitute was that there is evidence that several sugar alcohols cause digetsive disorders, since the molecular structure of these substances hinders their correct digestion.
These molecules, which arrive almost intact in the colon, are received by natural microorganisms, which when fermenting alcohols produce gases that could cause discomfort and a feeling of bloating.
On the other hand, of all the studies carried out of this alcohol from sugar, the decomposition is different and is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, so it does not produce any impact on the digestive system.
It is known that of this rapid absorption into the blood, only a very small part can reach the colon, and the rest, almost 90%, is excreted through the urine. [The gut microbiota and erythritol]
This small part that we have discussed can reach the colon, it would only produce mild side effects with large doses of erythritol consumed.
Erythritol Side Effects
Once we have commented on the benefits offered by erythritol as a substitute for sugar and its high sweetening capacity, we will study the possible incidences and adverse effects that its daily consumption could cause.
As we have mentioned, 90% of the total concentration consumed of erythritol is introduced into the bloodstream and subsequently its elimination occurs in the urine.
But what about the remaining 10%?
That amount is the one that crosses the entire digestive system, almost intact, and reaches the colon, where microorganisms do their work and initiate the processes of decomposition and fermentation.
Therefore, only in very sensitive people, that 10% can cause mild stomach discomfort and a feeling of bloating (gas), but in an infinitely smaller amount compared to other sweeteners.
Likewise, that 10% that crosses the colon, due to the molecular structure of alcohol, something different from the rest, offers greater resistance to microbiological degradation.
Studies carried out in food have proven that up to 450 mg / kg of weight is a more than safe amount to not have any side effects.
Above this amount, greater than 500 mg, in the clinical trial conducted, some patients suffered mild stomach discomfort and sensation of nausea.
Therefore, as long as we consume amounts less than 450 mg per kg of body weight, we should not suffer any side effects.
Does not increase blood sugar or insulin
In the study of all sugar substitutes, the first thing that is analyzed is what happens to the level of sugar and the production of insulin, so that it is studied if its consumption by diabetic patients is viable.
In the case of erythritol, the human being lacks the enzymes necessary for the correct decomposition of its chemical structure, therefore, when 90% of the concentration passes into the bloodstream, it does not undergo any modification that causes any metabolic change in the body.
Therefore, the level of sugar, insulin production, the level of cholesterol, triglycerides and other molecular markers have been analyzed in several scientific studies and no responses have been found that alter them after consuming erythritol. [Study on glucose and erythritol levels]
Therefore, erythritol seems to be a totally safe substance for patients with illness, obesity, metabolic syndrome or diabetes.
May reduce the risk of heart disease
Once we know the recommendations for use and the null negative implications for the organism, some positive effects for the organism have been discovered.
Erythritol as sugar alcohol, can have an antioxidant effect, as seen in the study conducted in rats. [Antioxidant effect of erythritol]
This same trial has been conducted in humans with type 2 diabetes and under a consumption of 3600 mg daily for 30 days.
In the conclusions, an increase in arterial volume and reduction in markers of heart disease were observed.
Summary and conclusions
- It contains almost no calories.
- It has 70% the sweetness of sugar.
- It does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels.
- Human studies show very few side effects, mainly minor digestive problems in some people.
- Studies in which animals are fed in large numbers for long periods of time show no adverse effects.