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Erythritol, whose term in the official IUPAC nomenclature is: (2R,3S)-butane-1,2,3,4-tetraol, also known by the abbreviation E968 is a polyalcohol which is found naturally in fruit or foods fermented. We find it in small quantities in ripe melons, pears or grapes, but also in wine or cheese and pistachios.
Erythritol has a brute or molecular formula: C4H10O4. Erythritol, having an axis of symmetry, is defined as meso and therefore optically inactive.
This compound is successfully used as a natural sweetener due to the almost absence of calories and its excellent flavour, with no aftertastes.
Erythritol has a sweetening power of about 60-70% compared to conventional sugar. However, it barely provides energy (with about 20 kCal/100g, twenty times less than sucrose) and does not affect insulin levels. This means that when it is absorbed by the body, no insulin is released into the blood. Erythritol can therefore be used in the diet of diabetics or risk groups.
Also thanks to its small size (has only four carbon atoms) and low molecular weight (122.12 g mol-1), the metabolic profile of erythritol is unique. Over 90% of ingested erythritol is readily absorbed in the small intestine through passive diffusion. This fraction is not metabolised and is eliminated unchanged in the urine. The remaining fraction (< 10%) reaches the large intestine where it is only partially metabolised. This explains its very low caloric value which varies from 0 to a maximum of 0.2 kcal/gr. From a physical point of view, erythritol is a thermally stable, odorless compound, it does not bind almost any liquid, therefore it does not form lumps and does not provide a fertile ground for mushrooms; it also does not promote tooth decay, which is why this additive is often used in chewing gum and sugar-free candies. Erythritol, dissolved in water, leaves a refreshing taste on the tongue. This property is ideal for low-calorie summer drinks. It is also very well suited to the preparation of baked goods and desserts. In combination with protein-rich foods such as quark or yoghurt, a long-lasting satiating effect is achieved. If erythritol is used for sweetening and the usual sweetness of white sugar is desired, the amount should be increased by about a quarter. However, the use of erythritol can also be an opportunity to gradually get used to a less sweet taste. Like other sugar alcohols, erythritol is classified as harmless to health.

Our body absorbs 90% of the sugar substitute through the small intestine and excretes it unchanged through the kidneys. This greatly reduces flatulence which is more common with other sugar alcohols. This is because flatulence is mainly caused by bacterial fermentation of sweeteners in the large intestine. People with sensitive gut, fructose intolerance or histamine intolerance should, to be on the safe side, avoid sugar substitutes. Although erythritol is a food additive classified as safe, there are currently no long-term studies on its effects. Erythritol is obtained through fermentation. As with many biotechnological processes, genetic engineering methods can be used, for example corn used as a starting product or fungal cultures needed for fermentation. At an industrial level, it is in fact obtained from sugary substrates (starch, glucose, sucrose, etc.) via microbial fermentation by selected osmophilic yeasts (for example Moniliella pollinis). Since 1990, erythritol has been approved for food use in more than 60 countries, among these Japan and the United States were the first to use it in the food sector. In 2006, the European Commission included erythritol in the list of polyvalent food additives (2006/52/EC) and the approval was final in February 2008. With Directive 2008/100/EC, the Commission recognized and assigned all ‘erythritol energy value equal to 0 kcal/gr. Since erythritol has not only sweetening properties, its use has been authorized for the same food applications as the other polyols and under the same conditions of use. Recent studies have highlighted an anti-radical activity of erythritol, which has proven to be an excellent scavenger of hydroxyl radicals, with protective properties for cell membranes. Erythritol therefore acts as an antioxidant in vivo and can help reduce the glycemic impact of foods and beverages, counteracting the effects of free radicals induced by hyperglycemia.

Warning: The information provided is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.

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