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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Erythritol gets a 0 calorie nod

The US FDA powers that be have recently given a sugar substitute erythritol a nod as a 0 calorie ingredient. Erythritol is a 5-carbon sugar as compared to glucose which is a 6-carbon sugar and sucrose (table sugar) which is actually a combination of glucose and fructose, another 6-carbon sugar. The fun thing about erythritol is, aside from its sweetness, it has a rather cooling effect similar to mint. It is usually found in chewing gums, chocolates, and candies, and toothpaste.

The body cannot utilize erythritol for energy which is why it has zero calories. In rats, it is absorbed by the body and more than 90% is excreted in urine, while the rest is fermented by microorganisms in the intestines (Noda and Oku, 2007.

is this good news or bad news? Sources from the food industry say that for pastries and confectioneries, it may mean 30-60% less calories in foods which use erythritol, allowing food producers to add low-calorie claims to their products. What about for us consumers? Well, we can assume that erythritol will be making its way in grocery aisles soon, but I'm not sure what long term health effects can be.

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