Erythritol (or C4H10O4) is a white crystal sugar alcohol, very similar to crystal sugar, and is used as a substitute for it. Erythritol is also known as food additive E968. Along with xylitol and sorbitol, erythritol is considered a healthy sweetener. It contains fewer calories than honey and pure sugar but significantly more than stevia for example.
After consumption, it leaves a refreshing aftertaste in the mouth. Erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol, found in various fruits such as pears, watermelon, corn and grapes. It is also found in certain fermented liquids such as beer and wine. There are data that it can be found in feta cheese and soya sauce.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved erythritol as a sweetener at the end of the 90s. Nearly a decade before though, it was already being used in Japan; it was added to food products made for diabetics.
Use of Erythritol
Erythritol is most commonly used in the food industry. It's put into sugary products such as gum, chewable candy, lollipops, fruit yoghurt, fruit jellies, shakes, juices, nectars, purees, dried fruits, soft drinks, jelly products and all kinds of other desserts you can find in supermarkets.
It's put into certain types of chocolate but due to the cooling effect it leaves after consumption, manufacturers are still unsure whether those chocolate desserts are preferred or avoided by consumers. This same property makes erythritol an excellent component of mints and gum.
Cooking with Erythritol
Erythritol in crystal form can be used for cooking at home as well. This sweetener is used just like the well familiar crystal sugar. It can be added to a myriad of culinary recipes. It's suitable for sweetening ice creams, jams, creams, smoothies, jellies, drinks, fruit porridges. It can also be used in the preparation of biscuits, muffins, cookies.
Safe Doses of Erythritol
Studies indicate that there is a small chance for larger amounts of erythritol to cause gas or other issues. Still, it's generally accepted that the recommended daily dose of the sweetener is about 1/5 tsp (1 g) per 2 lb (1 kg) of body mass. This value applies to adults. Children under 3 years of age should not take the substance prior to consulting with an expert.
Benefits of Erythritol
Consumption of erythritol actually turns out to be beneficial for many. It does not lower blood sugar levels and as such can be used by people suffering from diabetes. This is an excellent product for individuals who need to meticulously keep track of their intake of regular sugar.
Erythritol does not contribute to the formation of cavities and according to some studies can even help prevent this problem, since it lowers the acidity causing holes and cavities.
A large majority of sweeteners (such as sorbitol for example) cause gas and stomach bloating when consumed. This effect is not seen with erythritol for example. It passes through the body easily and is secreted into the urine. This is why it's preferred to dangerous artificial sugar substitutes such as aspartame, saccharin and cyclamate.
They have been blamed for kidney problems, the appearance of tumors, headache, asthma attacks, suffocation, hearing loss, seizures, joint pain, loss of taste, weight gain, rashes, increased heartbeat and a series of other unpleasant conditions but erythritol has not been linked to any of these so far.
The product is recommended as part of a healthy and balanced diet. At this time, experts say that this food additive does not lead to dependence and addiction. In larger doses it can cause a laxative effect, which is why it can be used in cases of slowed metabolism or constipation.
The American FDA has classified erythritol as a safe sweetener after performing extensive studies. The FDA's research does not report any allergic reactions to the substance.
This is why the FDA has made the decision of not putting special warning labels on the products containing erythritol.
Dangers of Erythritol
Even though erythritol is generally considered a safe sweetener, it's not uncommon to see certain side effects when you first start using it and if consuming it in larger doses.
For example, it is possible that excessive intake of the substance can cause diarrhea or stomach pains. Too much of the sweetener can also lead to GI distress - gastrointestinal distress, which is expressed in constant fatigue and the lack of desire for physical activity.
Experts also advise individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or other stomach problems to avoid consuming erythritol. If a patient with these takes the substance they may feel discomfort or have their condition worsen.