By Beth O’Shea Kindamo, Assistant nutrition educator and program coordinator, University of Georgia Extension and Outreach, Nutritional Sciences

A teaspoon full of white granulated sugar, which is spilling off the spoon. The mound of sugar is topped with a bright, fresh raspberry.
Sugar alcohol: Produced through fermentation of yeast and glucose, erythritol is a sweeting agent with fewer calories than sugar that doesn’t affect blood sugar or insulin levels. Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash.

What is erythritol?

Erythritol is a type of carbohydrate called a sugar alcohol or polyol. Sugar alcohols taste about 70 percent as sweet as typical sweeteners – like table sugar – but provide far fewer calories. This is because our bodies digest sugar alcohols differently than sugar. Sugar alcohols are commonly used in sugar-free products like sugarless gum, cough drops, diet soft drinks, reduced sugar baked goods, and personal care products like mouthwash and toothpaste. While table sugar contains four calories per gram, erythritol contains less than one calorie per gram. It comes in powder form.

Where does erythritol come from?

Erythritol occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, as well as in fermented foods such as soy sauce and cheese. It is produced commercially through fermentation when yeast and glucose are combined. It can be used as a sweetening agent on its own or combined with other sweeteners to add volume and texture. If it is in a product, it is listed as an ingredient on the Nutrition Facts Panel.

Why use erythritol?

The benefit of using a sugar alcohol like erythritol is that it provides sweet taste without affecting blood sugar or insulin levels. It has a glycemic index of zero. It can be used in place of sugar to reduce sugar intake and help manage diabetes. It is also helpful for dental health since oral bacteria cannot digest erythritol, so it doesn’t contribute to cavities or tooth decay. This makes erythritol a popular ingredient in chewing gum. For similar reasons, it is often used as a pharmaceutical ingredient to improve the taste of medications. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted erythritol Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status for use as a sweetener and flavor enhancer.

What’s the latest research?

Erythritol was in the news in 2023. It has long been known that large doses of sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect, causing an upset stomach, gas, or diarrhea. This is most likely when consuming large amounts of the sweetener, defined as 50 grams or more. This year, concerns emerged regarding the link between erythritol and heart health. A study released in the journal Nature Medicine found that people with higher levels of erythritol in their blood had increased risk for cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. Laboratory studies have shown increased blood clot formation in individuals consuming erythritol. The study did not directly examine how much erythritol participants were consuming.

Low calorie sweeteners like erythritol can be a useful tool for reducing sugar intake and managing blood glucose. Further studies are needed to determine long-term health effects of non-sugar sweeteners. Concerning weight management, the World Health Organization recommends reducing sugar intake by choosing foods with naturally occurring sugars, like fruit or other unsweetened foods and beverages, stating, “[non-sugar sweeteners] are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value. People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health.”

For more information about diabetes, see the UGA Diabetes Life Lines newsletters at