Erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol, or polyol, that is used in place of sucrose. It is found naturally occurring in fruits, such as melon and grapes and fermented foods. Glucose is fermented in the presence of the Moniliella pollinis yeast to yield erythritol, which is then purified to about 99.5%. It has the appearance and texture of sugar, but is only about 70% as sweet. Erythritol is commonly found in combination with other artificial sweeteners so the sweetness is enhanced. Its non-hydroscopic property allows for the raw material to be free-flowing. Unlike other sugar substitutes, users do not experience an unpleasant aftertaste.
Erthritol has been used in Japan since 1990 as an ingredient and sugar substitute in candies, chocolate, jellies, and beverages. The FDA states this product to have a caloric value of 0.2 per gram, while other countries vary slightly from that value.
Erythritol exhibits a cooling effect, stronger than most sugar alcohols, when it is dissolved in water. This property is desirable to achieve a mint mouth feel, but can be distracting to more subtle tastes. Physicians and nutritionists recommend that erythritol is a safe and health sugar alternative in comparison to other sugar alcohols. Several benefits come from the use of erythritol; unlike conventional sugar, blood glucose and insulin levels remain static when using erythritol. And, because oral bacteria cannot metabolize sugar alcohols, it has been accredited as tooth-friendly which reducing dental plaque to prevent cavities and tooth decay.
The common side effect witnessed from excessive consumption of sugar alcohols, such as xylitol and lactitol, is irritation of the digestive system which results in a laxative effect. However, erythritol does not usually enter the large intestine because it gets absorbed in the bloodstream, while still in the small intestine, and finally excreted in the urine unchanged. Although, when erthritol is consumed in extreme quantities, in cases where the body’s natural absorption threshold is crossed, gastric distress can result.
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