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Friday, February 19, 2010

What is erythritol?

I would not know what this was if not for a soda I treated myself to and um, then poured out. But I am glad I tried it because now I also know more about sugar alcohol - and that is something I have been asked about in the past.

Sometimes when I am at a health food store called Richard's (which is really not so often) I will treat myself to one of their uniquely flavored calorie free sodas - which USUALLY have a sweetener considered natural. Recently I tried Blue Sky Free, Jamaican Ginger Ale. I thought it contained stevia, the sweetener made from a plant that is very expensive and is also fibrous. After I had a few sips I looked at the label and saw that the soda was pretty much ZERO everything except that it had 11g of erythritol. That turns out to be a sugar alcohol and one of the "better" ones -if you are a diabetic, anyways. It is also reported to not have an aftertaste and to not cause GI upset as some other sugar alcohols will do. I thought the soda was WAY sweet and icky - and I sadly, poured it out.

I do want to make an observation however - regarding erythritol and advertising, in a moment. First, erythritol may indeed be a good choice as a sweetener, with no known side effects in normal quantities and little to NO effect on blood sugar levels, even in diabetics. It does not cause an insulin response. It is virtually calorie free with only .2 cals per gram. It is not however, readily available. But when you see a caption about this or any product (because you can find it on line) that states "all natural and 100% pure" please remember that you need to read beyond that sentence! Some of our most deadly neurotoxins are also all natural and pure, that in and of itself, should not be why you consume something.

So about these sugar alcohols. With the exception of erythritol, most sugar alcohols do contain calories, but are still better for diabetics than sugar. They usually have half the calories per gram as sugar, but are still listed under carbohydrates on a nutrition label. They do have an effect on blood sugar for that reason, but it is minimal. Sugar alcohols break down much more slowly than sugar (glucose) and do not cause a blood sugar spike, like Twinkies. It is the spiking that usually triggers an insulin response, so sugar alcohols do not generally involve any insulin activity. The sweeteners that do NOT effect blood sugar at all are the artificial ones, like saccharin and aspartame and I imagine, sucralose (splenda). Lose indicates sugar where as tol indicates sugar alcohol. (there is no alcohol in sugar alcohols)

The main draw back with sugar alcohols is that they do cause gastrointestinal distress to a good many people if consumed in moderate quantities. The sugar alcohol in your sugar free gum isn't likely to hurt your belly, cause gas or diarrhea, but the amount in your sugar free ice cream may. That reminds me, apparently the sugar alcohols, erythritol included, do not cause tooth decay. Sugar alcohols are processed from plants and fruits and can occur naturally in foods.

Though this post talked about natural low calorie sweeteners and sugar alcohols, others I have written have discussed artificial sweeteners. In case you have not read those blogs, but are curious as to my thoughts - I use artificial sweeteners on a daily basis - sucralose, aspartame, even saccharin if that's what there is.

As I hope I have continued to make clear here, I am not a nutritionist, only an avid nutrition advocate. This post here from Yale-New Haven Hospital taught me alot of what I just shared with you and at the end of that post, the nutritionist(s) lists the names of some of the popular sugar alcohols.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It tastes terrible. Like a lab created chemical.
Don't waste your money on these products !