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Are Gut Bacteria Affected by Erythritol?

Artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Equal may have negative effects on intestinal bacteria. How do sugar alcohols like erythritol affect gut flora?

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
1-minute read

 

Q. Thank you for your recent podcast episode on artificial sweeteners and their possible effects on gut bacteria. You mentioned that stevia may be a good option but what about erythritol? 

A. You're not the only one to wonder! Many new sugar-free sweeteners are a blend of stevia and erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol. Many listeners wrote to ask whether the effects of erythritol are known. Although stevia may support beneficial bacteria, it appears that erythritol promotes neither "good" nor "bad" intestinal bacteria. 

See also: What is Gut Microbiota?

 

Researchers found that erythritol is resistant to fermentation by a range of microbiota from human guts. This is why erythritol is less likely to cause gas or bloating than other sugar alcohols. But it also suggests that erythritol wouldn't alter the makeup of your intestinal flora the way saccharine, sucralose, or aspartame might. 

Despite this encouraging fact, I'm sticking with my previous advice to consume all sweeteners (caloric and non-caloric, natural and artificial) with restraint!  

Reference

Arrigoni E, Brouns F, Amadò R. Human gut microbiota does not ferment erythritol. Br J Nutr. 2005 Nov;94(5):643-6. 

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.