Erythritol is a sweetener with nearly zero calories that is completely safe to consume. It shouldn't be consumed in large amounts, however, because it can cause unpleasant side effects like diarrhea.
Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol, which is made by fermenting the sugar in corn. Sugar alcohols occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Sugar alcohol does not have the intoxicating properties of ethyl alcohol nor the high calorie content of sugar. Erythritol, in fact, has zero calories. However, it looks just like sugar and tastes like it, just slightly less sweet. Erythritol is even safe for diabetics because it doesn't raise blood glucose or insulin levels. It doesn't cause tooth decay like regular sugar.
Sugar alcohols have been proven to not be carcinogenic. It is an antioxidant, and the most effective one of all the sugar alcohols because it is not metabolized and stays in the same form while in the body. Over 90% of Erythritol gets absorbed by the small intestine, which is good news, because sugar alcohols can wreak havoc when they reach the large intestine, causing diarrhea.
Erythritol starts causing problems when it is consumed in large amounts. These side effects aren't serious health risks but they can be seriously uncomfortable. Erythritol can cause headaches and gastrointestinal distress, including upset stomach, stomach rumbling, nausea, bad gas, bloating, and diarrhea. You should not consume more than 50 grams of Erythritol a day. Some people are more sensitive to sugar alcohols and will experience these problems with far less erythritol.
Since erythritol in the US is made from fermented corn sugar, and 90% of corn in the US is genetically modified, unless there is indication otherwise the erythritol most likely comes from a GMO crop. There is a lot of controversy over and conflicting studies about whether or not GMOs are harmful to health, and if so, how harmful and in what ways. However, you're not eating the actual corn, the organism with unnatural genes, at all, but rather a chemical extracted from the fermented corn starch. Even if you are completely intent on avoiding GMOs it's probably okay to consume erythritol anyway, but that's a personal judgment call.
Possible short-term side effects
- upset stomach
- stomach rumbling
Commonly found in
- diet foods
- frozen desserts
- protein bars
- fruit spreads
- low calorie content
- does not cause tooth decay
- does not spike blood sugar