Is Erythritol Low FODMAP?
Erythritol & the Low FODMAP Diet
Erythritol is a bit tricky when it comes to the low FODMAP diet. Erythritol is generally well absorbed in our small intestines, which means it should be low FODMAP. However research shows it does promote fructose malabsorption, which is problematic for people who react to FODMAPs (Kim et al., 2011). This means many FODMAP dietitians recommend avoiding erythritol in the elimination period (Catsos, 2014).
What is Erythritol?
Erythritol is a four-carbon sugar alcohol that is well absorbed in our small intestines, when compared to the high FODMAP sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol or isomalt) (Kim et al., 2011). Research indicates that only 10% of the erythritol ingested makes it to our large intestine, and gut bacteria do not rapidly ferment erythritol in our large intestines (Kim et al., 2011; Arrigoni et al., 2005). In theory erythritol should not increase irritable bowel syndrome symptoms (IBS) and this is why erythritol was considered FODMAP friendly.
So Why is Erythritol a Problem?
Recent research suggests that erythritol promotes the malabsorption of fructose, which can then cause IBS symptoms (Kim et al., 2011; Putkonen et al., 2013). When erythritol is consumed with fructose it reduces the absorption of fructose in the small intestine, the fructose then travels to the large intestines where it is rapidly fermented by gut bacteria and can cause IBS symptoms (Kim et al., 2011; Monash University, 2015). This means that erythritol by itself might be low FODMAP but it has a high FODMAP effect when combined with other foods. Patsy Catso, a well-known low FODMAP dietitian, no longer considers erythritol safe for the elimination phase (Catsos, 2014).
Personally, I have found that the erythritol in a powdered stevia sugar blend called Natvia, increased my tummy troubles when I consumed it with safe low FODMAP fruit. It was not a pleasant experience and I was in agony for hours!
Where is Erythritol Found?
Erythritol is found naturally in some fruits, mushrooms, and fermented foods like sherry, wine, and soy sauce (Kim et al., 2011; Nutrition Review, 2015). On the low FODMAP diet some wines, soy sauce, and certain fruits are considered safe and do not need to be removed from the diet. Erythritol can also be semi-artificially produced by the fermentation of glucose, derived from wheat or cornstarch, by using non-pathogenic yeasts (Nutrition Review, 2015). This type of erythritol is used as an artificial sweetener in chewing gum, confectionery, jams, coffee syrups, beverages, and sugar substitutes (it is often added to stevia sugar substitutes like Natvia and Truvia) (Kim et al., 2011; Natvia, 2015; Nutrition Review, 2015; Truvia, 2015). Pure stevia without added erythritol is low FODMAP. Erythritol can also be labeled as E968 (Nutrition Review, 2015).
I would recommend avoiding semi-artificial erythritol that has been added to products during the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet. If you do decide to consume erythritol avoid having it with fructose containing foods. Remember to check chewing gum, confectionary, diet drinks and sugar substitutes (like stevia blends) for erythritol (or E968) before consuming to avoid tummy troubles.
- Kim Y., Park SC., Wolf BW., & Hertzler SR. Combination of erythritol and fructose increases gastrointestinal symptoms in healthy adults. Nutrition Research. 2011: Volume 31: Issue 11. 836-841. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2011.09.025. Retrieved from:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22118754. Retrieved on: 2015-06-15.(Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6ZIPwtmqg)
- Catsos, P. Sweeteners & FODMAPs. IBS-Free At Last. 2014-10-31. Retrieved on:http://www.ibsfree.net/news/2014/10/31/sweeteners-and-fodmaps. Retrieved from: 2015-06-15. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6ZIQROG5f)
- Arrigoni E., Brouns F., & Amado R. Short communication: Human gut microbiota does not ferment erythritol. British Journal of Nutrition. 2005: Volume 94. 643-646. DOI: 10.1079/BJN20051546. Retrieved from:http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FBJN%2FBJN94_05%2FS0007114505002291a.pdf&code=bdf411b32cac6bf6a52396b9fb4b0cce. Retrieved on: 2015-06-15. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6ZIR5TzIf)
- Putkonen L., Yao C., Gibson, P. Fructose malabsorption syndrome. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. 2013: Volume 16: Issue 4. Retrieved from:http://journals.lww.com/co-clinicalnutrition/Abstract/2013/07000/Fructose_malabsorption_syndrome.17.aspx. Retrieved on: 2015-06-15. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6ZIT4cemG)
- Monash University. What happens when FODMAPs are mal-absorbed by the small intestine?. Monash University. 2015. Retreived from:http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/mal-absorption.html. Retrieved on: 2015-06-15. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6ZIRaZUny)
- Truvia. Facts about Truvia® natural sweetener. Truvia. 2015. Retrieved from:http://truviasideeffects.com/Facts. Retrieved on: 2015-06-15. (Archived by WebCite®at http://www.webcitation.org/6ZITNCMDW)
- Natvia. Frequently Asked Questions. Natvia. 2015. Retrieved from:http://www.natvia.co.nz/about-natvia/faqs/. Retrieved on: 2015-06-15. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6ZITVx8DX)
- Nutrients Review. Erythritol. Nutrients Review. 2015. Retrieved from:http://www.nutrientsreview.com/carbs/sweetener-erythritol.html. Retrieved on: 2015-06-15. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6ZITjNQUp)