A recent study was released relating erythritol to cardiovascular disease, creating quite a scare around this alternative sweetener. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol beloved for its ability to sweeten foods while also keeping blood sugar stable. Because of this, it has become a staple in ketogenic + low carb foods and sweeteners [including monk fruit + stevia], including many Simply Nourished recipes.
Once ingested, erythritol gets absorbed into the bloodstream largely undigested, where almost all [~80-90%] is filtered by the kidneys and excreted through the urine [note: a small percent is converted to a by-product of erythritol called erythronate, which has been linked to oxidative stress]. Between the time of ingestion and excretion, serum levels of erythritol rise temporarily, shown in this study in question [after 8 healthy adults were given 30 g erythritol each] and by other studies as well [1,2]. What remains to be seen are the effects of long-term erythritol intake on serum erythritol levels in healthy individuals – a question that no study has yet explored in humans. It has however been studied in mice.
It is important to remember that erythritol is also endogenously produced by the body in response to increased blood sugar + poor metabolic health. Additionally, metabolically unhealthy individuals have been shown to have higher amounts of circulating serum erythritol [3,4,5,6]. What remains to be seen is whether this high serum erythritol is the cause of poor metabolic health, or the result of it.
So, while this recent study appears shocking, it illuminated what we already know: serum levels of erythritol rise temporarily after erythritol intake and high serum levels of erythritol are related to poor metabolic health + cardiovascular disease. However, as discussed above, these two facts can’t be correlated without more research. After reviewing this study, the main question still remains: does long-term dietary erythritol intake raise serum erythritol levels enough to eventually cause poor metabolic health / cardiovascular disease?
While we stay tuned for future studies which address this, here is our advice:
• use erythritol in moderate amounts [a pinch here and there, up to 1 Tbsp per serving] until further research is done on long-term effects of dietary erythritol intake
- this study gave 30 g of erythritol to healthy individuals and saw a rise in serum erythritol. For context, there are 8 g erythritol in 2 tsp Lakanto monk fruit sweetener
• opt for natural, minimally processed sweeteners when possible [i.e maple syrup or honey] to gain the added benefits from the additional nutrients present
• prioritize metabolic health by regulating blood sugar daily through diet + lifestyle