Does erythritol harm gut bacteria?

Answered by James Kissner

The effects of erythritol on gut bacteria have been a topic of interest and research in recent years. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a low-calorie sweetener in various food and beverage products. Many people choose erythritol as an alternative to sugar due to its reduced calorie content and minimal impact on blood sugar levels. However, concerns have been raised about its potential effects on gut health and the balance of intestinal bacteria.

To understand the impact of erythritol on gut bacteria, researchers have conducted studies to assess its fermentation properties and its interaction with the microbiota in the human gut. Fermentation refers to the process by which bacteria break down carbohydrates and produce various metabolites. This process is essential for the growth and maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome.

One study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry investigated the fermentability of erythritol by a range of microbiota derived from human fecal samples. The results showed that erythritol was resistant to fermentation by the tested gut bacteria. This means that erythritol does not serve as a source of energy for these bacteria and is not metabolized or broken down by them.

Another study published in the Journal of Functional Foods examined the effects of erythritol consumption on the gut microbiota in healthy adults. The researchers found that erythritol consumption did not significantly alter the composition or diversity of the gut microbiota. In other words, erythritol did not seem to have a significant impact on the overall balance of “good” or “bad” bacteria in the gut.

It is worth noting that erythritol is not completely absorbed in the small intestine and reaches the colon where it may have some minimal interaction with the gut bacteria present there. However, the studies mentioned earlier suggest that erythritol does not significantly promote the growth of beneficial bacteria nor negatively affect the balance of intestinal bacteria.

It is important to mention that individual responses to erythritol may vary. Some individuals may experience digestive symptoms such as bloating or diarrhea when consuming erythritol in large amounts. However, these symptoms are typically mild and transient, and erythritol is generally considered to be well-tolerated.

The current research suggests that erythritol does not harm gut bacteria. It appears to be resistant to fermentation by a range of microbiota from the human gut, and its consumption does not seem to significantly alter the composition or diversity of the gut microbiota. However, it is always recommended to listen to your own body and assess your individual tolerance to erythritol or any other sweeteners.