Erythritol is found in nature at low levels in grapes, melons and pears and can be found at higher levels in fermented products like wine. Each day, it is estimated that we consume somewhere between 30 and 100 mg of naturally occurring erythritol in our regular diets. It is approximately 70% as sweet as sucrose and flows easily due to its non-hygroscopic character.
Erythritol is created by combining erythrose with the enzyme, erythrose reductase.
Erythritol distinguishes itself from other polyols as its caloric value is only 0.2 calories per gram and it has high digestive tolerance.
A petition to affirm the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status of erythritol was accepted for filing by the FDA in 1997. In 2001, FDA reviewed a GRAS Notification and did not raise any safety or legal issues. This allows manufacturers to produce and sell erythritol containing foods and beverages in the United States.
Erythritol has been used in Japan since 1990 in candies, chocolates, soft drinks, chewing gums, yogurts, fillings, cookie coatings, jellies, jams and sugar substitutes. Petitions have been submitted to additional governmental agencies throughout the world to expand the use of erythritol. It has already been approved for use in food in more than 20 jurisdictions including Canada, Mexico, Australia and the European Union.
The WHO/FAO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) reviewed the safety of erythritol in 1999 and established an ADI of "not specified," the highest safety category possible.
Metabolism in humans
Erythritol is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine due to its small molecular size and structure. Several clinical studies conducted in Europe1 and Japan have shown that up to 90% of ingested erythritol is absorbed and excreted unchanged in urine within a 24-hour period. This digestive pathway allows less than 5% of ingested erythritol to reach the large intestine and be fermented into volatile fatty acids or metabolized into carbon dioxide. As a result, foods containing substantial amounts of erythritol are very unlikely to cause gaseous and laxation side effects. A recent clinical study concluded daily consumption of 1 gram per kilogram body weight is well tolerated by adults as compared to sucrose containing foods.
Sweet Simplicity® contains erythritol and fructose as its sweetening ingredients. A 6-Gram packet contains approximately 5 grams erythritol and 1 gram fructose.