Erythritol: Is This Artificial Sweetener a Healthy Alternative to Sugar?

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Erythritol: Is This Artificial Sweetener a Healthy Alternative to Sugar?

Now that sugar has become the devil behind many chronic health issues, health conscious people are turning to natural sugar alternatives. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol gaining popularity as a sugar alternative because it doesn’t have the after taste of stevia or the gastrointestinal side effects of xylitol.

Because erythritol has the mouthfeel and taste of sugar, it is tempting to use it by the cups in baking recipes, but that might not be a good idea. Have you ever wondered if erythritol is safe?

What Is Erythritol?

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol naturally found in small amounts in some fruits and fermented foods. This includes wine, sake, beer, watermelons, pears, grapes, and soy sauce. Some scientists also detect it as naturally occurring in low levels in the human body.

Its chemical properties are similar to sugar but it has several alcohol groups, which is why it is called a polyol. (Erythritol is a smaller molecule than xylitol which might explain why it causes less problems than xylitol.)

The erythritol used today is produced by fermenting corn or wheat using the fungi Moniliella pollinis or Trichosporonoides megachliensis.

While real sugar has 4 calories per gram and xylitol 2.4 calories per gram (60% of the calories of sugar), erythritol is much lower in calories at 0.24 calories per gram (6% that of sugar). This means it has about 60 – 80% sweetness of glucose for the same volume.

Because it is not very sweet on its own, it is often mixed with another sweetener like allulose or monk fruit.

Is Erythritol Safe or Dangerous?

The safety of erythritol is controversial for many reasons:

  1. When used as an ingredient, we tend to use a much higher dose of it than the dose found in nature.
  2. The toxicology studies are mostly conducted in healthy people or animals, which means that it may still be harmful to people with chronic health issues.
  3. There are concerns with it being a fermented grain-based product, as well as the potential for some on the market being genetically modified.

Toxicology studies have reported no adverse effects in mice, healthy people, or diabetics except in very large doses on empty stomach. In fact a high percentage is rapidly absorbed in the upper intestine and pass through our system unchanged, with around 90% of it excreted intact in the urine.

So with all the controversy why are people choosing it?

Health Benefits of Erythritol

A few of the reasons people are choosing this alternative sweetener….

Erythritol May Help with Diabetes and Weight Loss

Unlike sugar and many artificial sweeteners, erythritol does not induce an insulin response or change glucose metabolism in the body. This is true both for healthy and obese people. In diabetics, replacing sugar with erythritol seems to improve blood sugar levels and some other clinical outcomes.

It does somewhat change hormones that control gut movement, so that food takes longer to move from the stomach to the small intestine. Another study also showed that non-obese people who consume a meal with erythritol feel more satiated than those who had a meal with real table sugar.

Erythritol Is Good for Dental Health

Sugar alcohols like xylitol and sorbitol are well known for their ability to help kill bad dental bacteria. However, erythritol is even more powerful than xylitol for dental health.

Erythritol can suppress bad bacteria growth, reduce acids in the mouth that can cause tooth decay, and inhibit biofilm formation. Therefore, sugar-free sweets sweetened with erythritol are considered safe for the teeth, and some dentists are even using it as a disinfectant.

It Is an Antioxidant

A cell-based study showed that erythritol can quench a reactive oxygen species (a chemically reactive chemical species that can cause cell damage). In addition, the study was able to show that it protected blood vessels of diabetic rats against oxidative chemicals and hardening of the arteries. This might be another reason why erythritol seems to help with diabetes.

Side Effects of Erythritol: The Dose Makes the Poison

Unfortunately, there are also some cautions to be aware of with the sweetener.

High Doses Can Cause Digestive Problems

In adults, consumption of erythritol at a high dose can cause uncomfortable stomach rumbling, nausea, and gas. This only happens when adults ingest a high dose, like at 50 grams (about 3.5 tablespoons) in one sitting.

In children, the dose that can cause diarrhea is lower, at around 0.71 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. The same study concluded that erythritol may only be safe for children at around 0.59 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.

In beverages, the safe concentration for children should not exceed 2.5% (6.25 grams in one cup), which means that it may be safer to mix erythritol with another natural sweetener like stevia.

It Can Aggravate Gut Infections

While normal human gut flora doesn’t ferment erythritol, unabsorbed erythritol in the small intestine can cause a problem for people with small intestine bacterial overgrowth. Polyols like erythritol can trigger symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including gas, diarrhea, and malaise.

Those with IBS, SIBO, or who have had bad reactions to it should avoid this sweetener.

Donna Gates of the Body Ecology diet does recommend using it as an alternative sweetener for people on the candida diet for those who tolerate it.


There are a few case reports of allergic reactions, including a case of hives and another of anaphylaxis. Interestingly, based on the first case study, it is still possible to be allergic even though the skin prick test comes back negative.

A Potent Insecticide

A group of researchers in Philadelphia tested various non-nutritive sweeteners on fruit flies, and found that erythritol in Truvia is the only sweetener that robustly kills the flies. Because it tasted sweet, the fruit flies would readily eat it.

(Now, until we understand how it kills the fruit flies, we don’t know how this impacts human health as some other species of insects can eat it and do okay.)

Concerns with GMOs and Grains as Raw Material

Because genetically modified products like corn syrup are cheap, many food products on the market that contain erythritol definitely contain GMO crops, which means that these foods are bad for the environment. In addition, non-organic foods that contain GMOs, even ones that are highly processed, can contain pesticide residues.

If you avoid gluten, you will have to be careful with residual gluten in erythritol that may be made from wheat or gluten-containing grains. You want to pick a good company that produces their product only from gluten-free sources. Ideally, get a certified organic one, and avoid non-organic products that contain erythritol.

Should You Use Erythritol?

At the time of this post, Wellness Mama medical reviewer Dr. Ann Shippy advised that she isn’t recommending sugar alcohols like erythritol based on research that shows they may alter the gut microbiome and cause unwanted symptoms even at a very low dose. However, unless a person has digestive problems like IBS, SIBO, or other bad reactions, using erythritol as a treat once in a while may be okay.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Ann Shippy, who is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and a certified Functional Medicine physician with a thriving practice in Austin, Texas. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Have you tried alternative sweeteners? Which have worked for you and which haven’t? Share below!


  1. Ruiz-ojeda FJ, Plaza-díaz J, Sáez-lara MJ, Gil A. Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials. Adv Nutr. 2019;10(suppl_1):S31-S48.
  2. Munro, I.C., et al. (1988, December). Erythritol: an interpretive summary of biochemical, metabolic, toxicological and clinical data. Food and Chemical Toxocology 36(12).
  3. Cock, Peter de, et al. (2016). Erythritol Is More Effective Than Xylitol and Sorbitol in Managing Oral Health EndpointsInternational Journal of Dentistry 2016.
  4. Shin, D. H. et al. (2016, August). Glycemic Effects of Rebaudioside A and Erythritol in People with Glucose IntoleranceDiabetes Metabolic Journal 40(4).
  5. Wölnerhanssen, B. K., et al. (2016, June 01). Gut hormone secretion, gastric emptying, and glycemic responses to erythritol and xylitol in lean and obese subjects. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism 310 (11).
  6. Ishikawa, M., et al. (1996, October). Effects of oral administration of erythritol on patients with diabetesRegulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 24(2).
  7. Overduin, J., et al. (2016, December 01). Failure of sucrose replacement with the non-nutritive sweetener erythritol to alter GLP-1 or PYY release or test meal size in lean or obese people. Appetite 107.
  8. Hartog, G. J. gen, et al. (2010, April). Erythritol is a sweet antioxidant. Nutrition 26(4).
  9. Yokozawa, T., Kim, H. Y., & Cho, E. J. (2002, September 11). Erythritol attenuates the diabetic oxidative stress through modulating glucose metabolism and lipid peroxidation in streptozotocin-induced diabetic ratsJournal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 50(19).
  10. Storey, D., Lee, A., Bornet, F., & Brouns, F. (2007, March). Gastrointestinal tolerance of erythritol and xylitol ingested in a liquid. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61.
  11. EFSA Food Panel.(2010, July 09). Statement in relation to the safety of erythritol (E 968) in light of new data, including a new paediatric study on the gastrointestinal tolerability of erythritol. EFSA Journal 8(7).
  12. Arrigoni, E., Brouns, F., & Amadò, R. (2005, November). Human gut microbiota does not ferment erythritol. British Journal of Nutrition 94(5).
  13. Body Ecology. Erythritol: What You Need to Know about This Natural Sugar Substitute & the Better Choice Available. Accessed March 23, 2017.
  14. Hino, H., et al. (2000, March). A case of allergic urticaria caused by erythritol. The Journal of Dermatology 27 (3).
  15. Kurihara, K., et al. (2013, November.) Case of 5 year-old boy with anaphylaxis due to erythritol with negative prick test and positive intradermal test. Arerugi 62(11).
  16. Baudier, K. M., et al. (n.d.). Erythritol, a Non-Nutritive Sugar Alcohol Sweetener and the Main Component of Truvia®, Is a Palatable Ingested Insecticide. PLOS, June 4, 2014.

It may save on calories, but is erythritol a safe sugar alternative? Find out what studies have to say about whether erythritol is a healthy choice.


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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


48 responses to “Erythritol: Is This Artificial Sweetener a Healthy Alternative to Sugar?”

  1. Lisa Avatar

    I have SIBO so I recently stopped using erythritol, but I just noticed it’s the third ingredient in my shampoo. Do you think I should stop using it? I probably will because my scalp is already a bit itchy. Something could be going on up there… Thanks!

  2. Kelli Chodor Avatar
    Kelli Chodor

    I found a stevia product that doesn’t have an after taste: Pyure. It comes in granular and liquid forms, and I get it from Walmart or Amazon.

  3. Judy Avatar

    Just wondered where swerve sugar comes in at for baking. Is it a good thing? Or bad.

  4. Vicki Avatar

    Can you tell me what makes this an “artificial” sweetener? It sounds as though it is a natural derivative, not altered genetically.

    1. Chelsea Kissiah Avatar
      Chelsea Kissiah

      My question exactly. Title of article needs to be changed.

  5. David L Avatar

    Researchers found that students who gained weight and abdominal fat over the course of the year had 15x higher blood erythritol levels at the start of the year compared with their counterparts who were stable or lost weight and fat mass over the academic year. Results also found that erythritol is not only absorbed from food but is also produced by the body and metabolized from glucose. When participants drank 13C-labeled glucose, it was metabolized and appeared in blood erythritol after some time. Erythritol is not consumed and released from the body unchanged; it has an impact on the metabolism of our body. This finding is in contrast to all previous assumptions it passed through unchanged. Erythritol occurs naturally in a variety of foods, such as pears and watermelon, but in recent years has increasingly become a common ingredient in low-calorie foods as a sugar replacement sweetener.

    Compared fructose to glucose on fat/weight gain, cholesterol, insulin sensitivity and found its more about total quantity in regard to sugars rather then one form or eating a single healthy fruit. Fructose does increase intra-abdominal fat gain, decrease insulin sensitivity and increase cholesterol in overweight and obese people more than glucose — but glucose increases fat and increases cholesterol. Eating 25% more calories in sugar than you normally eat for 10 weeks leads to weight gain: 1.55 kg (3.9 lb) in the glucose group and 1.20 kg (2.63 lb) in the fructose group.  Total fat only increased by 1.0 kg and 0.8 kg in the glucose and fructose group, respectively from the 25% more calories in sugar intake. Both groups had an increase in abdominal fat, but total abdominal fat and visceral fat went up more in the fructose group (8.6% total and 14% visceral).
    Eating a lot of either sugar meant packing on the pounds, its the quantity. Most fructose in the American diet comes not from fresh fruit, but from High fructose corn syrup or sucrose (sugar) that is found in soft drinks and sweets, which typically have few other nutrients or fiber in the case of fruit.  Fructose differs in several ways from glucose, the other half of the sucrose (sugar) molecule. Fructose is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract by a different mechanism than that for glucose and must be broken down by the liver. Glucose stimulates insulin release from the pancreas, but fructose does not.

    Stevia is non gmo verified.

  6. Sierra Schwartz Avatar
    Sierra Schwartz

    I like it mixed with stevia and monk fruit. When you mix them together it produces the best taste for a low carb sweetener.

  7. Rachel B Ramey Avatar
    Rachel B Ramey

    I’m not a fan of erythritol, but this makes no sense:

    “While real sugar has 4 calories per gram and xylitol 2.4 calories per gram (60% of the calories of sugar), erythritol is much lower in calories at 0.24 calories per gram (6% that of sugar). This means it has about 60 – 80% sweetness of glucose for the same volume.”

    Calories are neither a sweetness measurement nor a volume measurement, so what does the number of calories have to do with how sweet they are?

  8. Cody Avatar

    Have you tried the sweetener, ZenSweet yet? It is a really good alternative to sugar and the creators claim it has a lower volume of Erythritol compared to other natural sweeteners on the market.

  9. RP Avatar

    NuNaturals has Maltodextrin which is worse than consuming sugar.

    While Stevia has GI 0, it spikes Insulin 20% more than what sugar does!! Makes sense to skip Stevia for me and go for Erythritol/Monk Fruit/Just Like Sugar

  10. Jasan Avatar

    Triuvia is not a pure stevia product. It does contain the sugar alcohol erythitol .

  11. Lori Swetala Avatar
    Lori Swetala

    Hi. In a “cart before the horse” move I made and consumed a baked good recipe using erithritol and then sat down to start looking up more information about it. I was very excited to find this recommendation in some sugar free and low Weight Watcher points recipes. I had read “substitute the same as you would use sugar.” So I experimented with an almond meal crescent cookie recipe. I LOVE almond flavoring (think Christmas) and was excited to substitute this sugar for all the icing sugar in the recipe. Just egg whites, almond meal, almond extract and the “sugar.” Now I am not so sure.

    Heading off right now to take my probiotic and some Doterra DigestZen….

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