What is Erythritol? Benefits, Safety, Uses, and More

Medically Reviewed By Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D.

Erythritol is a type of sweetener. It can have many benefits and is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). However, erythritol may have certain side effects when consumed in large quantities.  Erythritol has well-researched potential benefits that include its effectiveness as a sugar substitute. However, despite its benefits, erythritol may not be completely risk-free due to its possible side effects.

This article explains what erythritol is, including its benefits, safety, and recommended intake levels. It also discusses the potential safety concerns of erythritol, including its possible side effects.

What is erythritol?

Two cups of coffee and two plates containing slices of cake sit on top of a coffee table.
Suzi Marshall/Stocksy United

Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol that is used as a sweetener.

It is a naturally occurring Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source substance found in fruit. However, manufacturers create it in large quantities by fermenting wheat and corn starches. As a result, people may refer to it as a natural or artificial sweetener.

Some food labels may refer to erythritol under the brand name Zerose Erythritol. It may be an ingredient in prepackaged foods and is also available as an additive. Erythritol is available in forms including:

  • powder
  • granules
  • liquid

Erythritol usage and intake levels

There is no standard daily limit on erythritol.

Erythritol is less sweet Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source than sugar and some other sugar substitutes. As such, you may want to use slightly more erythritol when using it to substitute sugar.

However, a 2018 review of research Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source advises against consuming more than 50 grams (g) per day. This daily quantity is roughly equivalent to 0.78 g of erythritol per kilogram of body weight.

This research finds that side effects were significant in this quantity. In contrast, quantities up to 35 g were well-tolerated by healthy participants.

Erythritol benefits

Below are some of the benefits of erythritol.

Reduces the health risks of sugar and may support dental health

Erythritol can provide sweetness to food and beverages. As such, using erythritol to substitute sugar may make it easier to reduce sugar consumption.

This can reduce your exposure to the health risks of sugar. In turn, this means erythritol can have positive effects, such as:

  • supporting dental health and reducing the risk of tooth decay
  • reducing the risk of blood sugar spikes
  • reducing the risk of diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease

Additionally, erythritol may decrease Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source plaque. It may also inhibit the growth of bacteria associated with dental issues, such as tooth decay.

Does not spike blood sugar or insulin levels

Researchers suggest that erythritol has virtually no impact on blood sugar or insulin levels. Long-term or repeated blood sugar spikes can lead to further health problems. This quality may make erythritol a useful sugar substitute for people with diabetes.

Additionally, it may have a positive impact Trusted Source AHA/ASA Journals Peer reviewed journal Go to source on blood pressure and vein stiffness in people with type 2 diabetes

May help prevent disease

Antioxidants may limit cell damage from free radicals, which are reactive chemicals that can harm cells. This can lower your chances of developing certain diseases. Some research associates erythritol with improving nonalcoholic fatty liver disease due to its antioxidant properties. 

However, studies on antioxidants’ ability to prevent cancer produce mixed results. Further research is necessary to confirm any effect.

Some people believe that commercial sugar substitutes may even cause cancer. However, research does not suggest that sugar substitutes, such as erythritol, cause cancer.

Contains fewer calories than sugar

One 2.3-g serving of table sugar (about one sugar cube) contains nearly 9 calories Trusted Source FoodData Central Highly respected food and nutrition database from the United States Department of Agriculture, Go to source . In contrast, erythritol contains 0 calories Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source in the same quantity.

However, erythritol is only 60–70% Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source as sweet as sugar. As such, you may need to use a higher quantity to get the same taste. 

May reduce feelings of hunger

A 2020 pilot study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source indicates that erythritol-sweetened beverages suppress the hunger hormone ghrelin. This encourages a feeling of fullness.

This quality can help people who are trying to reduce their caloric intake.

Has benefits over other sweeteners

Erythritol may not be Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source as sweet as some other sugar alternatives, such as stevia. However, it may cause fewer gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms.

A 2016 review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suggests that this may be due to its smaller molecular weight.

Is erythritol safe?

Large quantities of erythritol can cause side effects. However, research Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source supported by the manufacturers of Zerose Erythritol indicates that it is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used in human food.

GRAS is a set of guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This classification indicates that a substance is safe if people use it as intended. However, substances that meet the criteria for a GRAS classification are not regulated by the FDA.

Erythritol is generally safe when used according to guidelines. This can include following label instructions and serving sizes for products that contain it.

According to this research, erythritol may be safe because:

Erythritol is rapidly absorbed and eliminated from the body

The research suggests that up to 90% of erythritol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. As a result, as little as 10% of it reaches the digestive system. This may make it less likely to cause digestive side effects.

Additionally, the body cannot digest erythritol. The 10% that is not absorbed into the bloodstream passes through the urine undigested.

Researchers suggest that most GI side effects occur when people consume large quantities of erythritol. By contrast, lower quantities are typically well-tolerated.

Side effects are generally temporary and mild

Data cited in the 2018 review suggests large quantities of liquid erythritol may cause minor GI side effects.

However, most of these side effects occurred when consuming large quantities on an empty stomach.

The research also suggests that the side effects were mostly:

  • self-limiting, meaning they go away on their own
  • not severe
  • not related to toxicity, but instead related to digestive intolerance

Small quantities of erythritol are generally safe

Excessive quantities of erythritol can cause side effects that may affect your health.

However, research and FDA guidance suggest that appropriate quantities of erythritol can still be very safe for most people.

Additionally, erythritol has many potential benefits.

Erythritol side effects

Potential side effects and their severity can depend on certain factors. These can include your individual body chemistry, what food you ate containing erythritol, and the quantity you consumed.

Larger quantities of erythritol may cause side effects. This is because more of it may reach the stomach, and humans cannot digest erythritol due to its chemical structure. This can cause Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source osmotic diarrhea, the body’s response to unabsorbed material in the digestive system.

Additional side effects can include:

Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous without treatment. If you notice erythritol impacting your digestive health, reduce the amount you are consuming.

Learn more about diarrhea, including its treatments and complications.

When to contact a doctor

If symptoms persist even when you limit or avoid erythritol completely, talk with your doctor. 

Also, contact your doctor if you experience symptoms after taking erythritol or believe you have taken too much.

Summary

Erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar substitute that research shows is generally safe for consumption. Positive health effects of erythritol include its low calorie profile and effects on general health. It does not spike blood sugar or insulin levels.

However, symptoms such as diarrhea may occur if you consume a large amount of erythritol. These side effects are often temporary.

Contact your doctor if you experience symptoms after consuming erythritol or believe you have consumed too much.

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Medical Reviewer: Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D.
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 26
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