What is erythritol
Erythritol, the sweet ketogenic diet ingredient, is a sugar alcohol (polyol) that is approximately 60-80% as sweet as sucrose (table sugar). It is naturally found in minor amounts in some fruits like watermelon, pear, and grape. There’s some even in mushrooms and fermented foods like wine, beer, and soy sauce.
In Japan, erythritol has been consumed as a food ingredient since 1990. Thus, there’s been plenty of research conducted by Japanese scientists on how safe erythritol is, what are its side effects, etc. Erythritol has been approved in USA since 2001.
It has been used as a white or brown sugar substitute, as well as powdered sugar substitute. Erythritol, just like sugar, can either be granulated or powdered. It has a low glycemic index and is therefore suitable for diabetics.
It is soluble in water, and it starts melting at approximately 145°F (119°C). This might be a handy information for cooking purposes. Its caloric value is less than 0.2 kcal/g for daily intakes not exceeding 25 g/day (which is slightly less than an ounce a day).
There are two methods of fermentation for erythritol production. Both methods include yeast-like fungi to ferment wheat or corn starch. The fermentation broth is then heated to kill the production organism, and dead cells are removed by filtering. Erythritol further on undergoes various purification procedures, so that the final product is at least 99% pure.
The fermentation method obviously differs from synthetic manufacturing of artificial sweeteners like sucralose. Splenda is the famous sucralose brand name. Erythritol, accompanied by steviol glycoside, is an ingredient of Truvia. If you want to use solely erythritol, Sukrin is one of the most known brands you can find pretty much worldwide.
Animal studies of erythritol
Animal studies for toxicity of erythritol are extensive. When tested for acute toxicity, it has been shown to be non-toxic. A most obvious effect, observed in rats, consuming high doses of erythritol, was increased water intake. Some studies also showed soft stool and reduced body weight, and an increased feed intake in some cases.
Long term studies, lasting up to 2 years, demonstrated that erythritol did not affect survival and had no carcinogenic effect. Nor have studies showed any evidence of mutagenic activity. Furthermore, various studies have indicated that erythritol, even at high doses, has had no adverse effects on fertility or on the developing fetus.
Human studies of erythritol
Various studies show that most of the erythritol is not metabolised to a significant degree in the body. Depending on doses, 60% to more than 90% of ingested erythritol is quickly absorbed from the small intestine. It is then excreted unchanged in the urine within 48 hours.
In healthy volunteers, as well as noninsulin-depended diabetic patients, erythritol intake showed no significant effect on blood glucose levels. Moreover, healthy subjects showed no changes in levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, free fatty acids, sodium, potassium or chloride levels, consuming erythritol.
Limited number of studies have shown that erythritol can have a laxative effect, but at higher doses than other polyols. Laxative effect in humans is around 0.5 g per kg of body weight (or slightly under 0.2 ounce per 1 pound of body weight) for a single dose. This means that you might start to feel some stomach discomfort if you eat a lot of erythritol in one setting. Especially if not accompanied by much of other nutrients. Again, this side effect is much less common than in other sugar alcohols.
Should I consume erythritol on a ketogenic, low-carb or LCHF diet?
At the first glance, the answer would be: Of course, why not? Studies show that it does not affect blood glucose or insulin levels. On the other hand, an individual may find that erythritol consumption leads to some insulin level changes or lowered blood ketone levels. As every individual organism acts differently, every “study” (N = 1) will show a different result. What’s important to know is that there are plenty of other factors and background mechanism that we know nothing about, which are playing part in such subject-level measurements’ results. It is difficult to point the finger at erythritol alone. I really wish for an extended scientific study on this matter. I’ve found this product review on Keto diet blog (N= 2) highly enjoyable. If you click on the link and scroll down, you’re going to find some blood glucose and ketone level results after consuming certain sweeteners.
So, in my opinion, everyone should decide for themselves, taking their particular goals into consideration. While My Sweet Keto encourages you to try all the delicious recipes, I am well aware that some of us need a lot of self-discipline to consume the irresistible treats only a little by little. I suggest taking every dessert as a special treat, enjoying small bites. Freeze the leftovers or invite some friends over. And if you are into measuring your ketone levels, don’t imagine that a keto-friendly dish remains keto-friendly in any amount.
I’m saying this because I believe it might be difficult for an ex high carb consumer (or even addict) to completely switch their lifestyle and overcome cravings if all the sweet goodness is still all around them. Even though it’s supposed to be guilt-free. The sweet taste might induce cravings for more and more LCHF desserts (which might lead to overindulging) or even carbs. Try to decide for yourself whether you’re a person who can easily overcome or ignore cravings and enjoy a couple of keto-friendly desserts at the same time. If you’re unsure, try keto sweets in small doses and see what happens. When you experience cravings that were not present before, you should maybe think about limiting your dessert intake to once a week or so. Try scheduling a treat day on your calendar. In any case, I suggest that any keto / LCHF beginner should go a month or so without keto treats. And then return to this site. 😉
Moderation is the magic word in this case (and many many other cases).
Borneta, F.R.J., Blayob, A., Dauchyc, F., and Slamab, G. (1996). Gastrointestinal Response and Plasma and Urine Determinations in Human Subjects Given Erythritol. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 24(2), S296–S302.
Munro, I.C., Berndt, W.O., Borzelleca, J.F., Flamm, G., Lynch. B.S., Kennepohl, E., Bär, E.A., and Modderman, J. (1998). Erythritol: an interpretive summary of biochemical, metabolic, toxicological and clinical data. Food Chem Toxicol., 36(12), 1139-74.