Erythritol – from seed to Eureba

In nature we find the polyol erythritol in grapes, pears and melons, but also in fermented foods such as wine, cheese and beer. With 70 percent of the sweetness of sugar, but with no calories and no effect on blood sugar, erythritol is an interesting ingredient in sugar reduction. But as erythritol occurs in such small quantities in nature, it is manufactured – from wheat and yeasts.

30 October 2019 • and

Erythritol dif­fers from oth­er poly­ols. You can con­sume it with­out hav­ing to wor­ry about either calo­ries or blood sug­ar. And you can tol­er­ate ery­thri­tol in larg­er amounts than oth­er poly­ols before your stom­ach starts act­ing up. In addi­tion, it has 70 per­cent of the sweet­ness of sug­ar and is sim­i­lar to sug­ar in tex­ture. No won­der ery­thri­tol is an inter­est­ing alter­na­tive to sug­ar in food, bak­ing and beverages.

Found first in lichen

John Stenhouse

The sub­stance ery­thri­tol was dis­cov­ered in 1848 by the Scottish chemist John Stenhouse (1809-1880).

Stenhouse was inter­est­ed in the med­ical and tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ments that were dri­ven for­ward by new dis­cov­er­ies of chem­i­cal sub­stances in the plant world. He cre­at­ed sev­er­al clever and use­ful inven­tions in sug­ar mak­ing, dye­ing, impreg­na­tion and tan­ning. However, he is best known for his air fil­ters and char­coal breath­ing masks, which clean the air and remove odours.

In the mid-19th cen­tu­ry, Stenhouse exper­i­ment­ed with the lichen Roccella Montagnei from south­ern Africa. Through var­i­ous chem­i­cal process­es he suc­ceed­ed in obtain­ing clear crys­tals of the sub­stance, which were even­tu­al­ly named ery­thri­tol. Stenhouse describes that Pseudo-orcin, as he first called the sub­stance, has a very sweet taste. When heat­ed on plat­inum foil it burns with a blue flame and smells a bit like caramel. The sub­stance is sol­u­ble in both water and alcohol.

Found in fermented molasses

In 1950, one hun­dred years after Stenhouse’s dis­cov­ery of ery­thri­tol, traces of the sub­stance were found in black­strap molasses which had been fer­ment­ed by yeast. This led to the method used today to pro­duce erythritol.

Unlike oth­er poly­ols, which are pro­duced from sug­ar types by adding hydro­gen, ery­thri­tol is pro­duced by fer­ment­ing glucose.

Preparation of erythritol

Manufacturing of ery­thri­tol begins with starch from, for exam­ple, wheat, maize or potatoes.

The starch is dis­solved in water, which is then heat­ed togeth­er with acid or enzymes or both. The starch is then bro­ken up into ever-short­er chains of glu­cose mol­e­cules until essen­tial­ly only glu­cose remains.

Thus far, the process is the same as that for glu­cose syrup. However, to pro­duce ery­thri­tol, yeast is added which con­verts glu­cose to ery­thri­tol by fermentation.

Many yeasts can be used. A genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied vari­ant of Yarrowia lipoly­t­i­ca is one of the more effi­cient ones. With this, more than 60% of glu­cose can be con­vert­ed to erythritol.

Improves texture and mouthfeel

Erythritol forms sug­ar-like crys­tals, with 60 to 70 per­cent of the sweet­ness of sug­ar, and no aftertaste.

Although it is pos­si­ble to use ery­thri­tol as a sweet­en­er on its own, it is more often used to mask unpleas­ant off-flavours or after­taste from high inten­sive sweet­en­ers. Erythritol also pro­vides vol­ume and tex­ture, and con­tributes over­all to a bet­ter mouthfeel.

There is only one fly in the ointment.

Cold sensation in your mouth

Erythritol is endother­mic. This means that heat is tak­en from the sur­round­ings when ery­thri­tol is dis­solved in liq­uids. The result is a cool­ing effect. When you eat ery­thri­tol you will get a cold sen­sa­tion in your mouth.

It can be com­pen­sat­ed with an exother­mic ingre­di­ent. The dietary fibre inulin is one such ingre­di­ent. This means that heat is released when inulin is dis­solved in liq­uid. The result is a warm­ing sensation.

Once ery­thri­tol is dis­solved in liq­uid, no cool­ing effect remains. Therefore, ery­thri­tol works well in bev­er­ages, for example.

No calories

Erythritol is a poly­ol, and these are often asso­ci­at­ed with some less desir­able prop­er­ties. But ery­thri­tol is unique. It does not have the bad side effects that oth­er poly­ols have.

For exam­ple, ery­thri­tol con­tains almost no calo­ries. Only 0.2 kcal per gram. Other poly­ols may con­tain as much as 12 times the amount of calo­ries. Not to men­tion reg­u­lar sug­ar, which con­tains 20 times as much calories.

But not only does ery­thri­tol bare­ly con­tain any calo­ries. Most of the ery­thri­tol is absorbed in the small intes­tine and is excret­ed unmod­i­fied in the urine. Therefore, the calo­ries you do get from ery­thri­tol will con­tribute next to nothing.

Therefore, when you count the ener­gy con­tent of your food, you should count 0 kcal from ery­thri­tol, unlike oth­er poly­ols that you have to count 2.4 kcal.

No effect on the blood sugar

Another qual­i­ty that makes ery­thri­tol unique among poly­ols is its effect on blood sug­ar. Or rather, its lack of it.

Erythritol has 0 glycemic index (GI).

The rea­son is of course that the body does not digest ery­thri­tol. What is tak­en up in the small intes­tine is passed right through. What reach­es the colon con­tin­ues on out.

Erythritol is thus an excel­lent sweet­en­er for peo­ple with diabetes.

Easier on the stomach

In gen­er­al, even small amounts of poly­ol will have an effect on your stom­ach. Therefore, prod­ucts con­tain­ing more than ten per­cent poly­ols must be labelled with a warn­ing that exces­sive con­sump­tion may have a lax­a­tive effect.

Products with ery­thri­tol must also be labelled. But unlike sor­bitol, xyl­i­tol and malti­tol, for exam­ple, ery­thri­tol has a much small­er effect on the stom­ach. This is because most of it has already been absorbed in the small intes­tine to be passed out with urine.

Less than ten per­cent of ery­thri­tol finds its way to the large intes­tine and may be lax­a­tive. Because the amount is so small, it won’t have the same neg­a­tive effects as you may get from oth­er polyols.

So, even when it comes to the effects on your stom­ach, ery­thri­tol is bet­ter than oth­er polyols.

No tooth decay

But one char­ac­ter­is­tic that ery­thri­tol shares with oth­er sug­ar schools is that it is not car­i­o­genic. Polyols do not cause cavities.

Quite the oppo­site, some poly­ols can coun­ter­act cav­i­ties. Most well-known is xyl­i­tol. But ery­thri­tol also seems to have the same pos­i­tive effect. Erythritol is there­fore well suit­ed for chew­ing gum and throat lozenges.

Research is ongoing

Much has been done to find and devel­op yeast that fer­ment glu­cose to ery­thri­tol more quick­ly and to a greater extent. But ery­thri­tol is still rel­a­tive­ly expen­sive to pro­duce. Therefore, research is ongo­ing to find even more effi­cient ways. Researchers are main­ly look­ing at two dif­fer­ent options.

One option aims to find bac­te­ria, fil­a­men­tous fun­gi and oth­er organ­isms that can pro­duce ery­thri­tol. The hope is this will make it pos­si­ble to opti­mise pro­duc­tion and yield.

The sec­ond option uses meta­bol­ic engi­neer­ing to mod­i­fy genes of yeasts so that they can con­vert oth­er, cheap­er, raw mate­ri­als than glu­cose into ery­thri­tol and/​or make it more efficiently.

Erythritol in Eureba

Erythritol, with its many, and good, prop­er­ties, is always on our short list of pos­si­ble ingre­di­ents to be includ­ed in sweet­ened fibres, which we devel­op and mar­ket under the trade­mark Eureba.

Sweetened fibres are a homo­ge­neous com­po­si­tion of dietary fibre, high inten­sive sweet­en­er and oth­er ingre­di­ents. One kilo of sweet­ened fibres replaces one kilo of reg­u­lar sug­ar in recipes with­out hav­ing to alter your pro­duc­tion. The pur­pose is to reduce calo­ries and the effect on blood sug­ar with­out chang­ing taste, mouth­feel and texture.

In sweet­ened fibres, ery­thri­tol can be used to mask the licorice-like after­taste of ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides, which is the high inten­sive sweet­en­er we usu­al­ly use. Erythritol can also be used as bulk and to pro­vide the right texture.

Do you want to know more?

You may be inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about Eureba. For exam­ple, if we have a ready-made solu­tion for your spe­cif­ic needs. (It’s quite like­ly. If not, we will pro­duce one for you.) Please, don’t hes­i­tate to con­tact us. We would be hap­py to answer your ques­tions. Give us a ring on +46 8 613 28 88 or send an e-mail to info@​baynsolutions.​com.

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