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Is There a Safe, Low-Calorie Sweetener?

The natural sweetener erythritol does not appear to carry the adverse effects associated with other low and non-caloric natural and artificial sweeteners and may actually have antioxidant potential. For a while it was only available in Japan but now it’s becoming more accessible. It’s found naturally in pears and grapes, but industrially we have yeast make it for us. It doesn’t cause cavities and hasnít been implicated in some of the disorders tied to other sweeteners such as fibromyalgia (see my video Aspartame-Induced Fibromyalgia), preterm birth (Diet Soda and Preterm Birth), headaches, hypertension, brain disorders, and platelet disorders (see A Harmless Artificial Sweetener).

What about stevia? The jury is finally in. The reason itís been such a long time coming is that research out of Japan in the ’90s found that steviosides, the active ingredient in stevia, appeared totally harmless, but in the guts of rats intestinal bacteria transformed steviosides into something called steviol, which is toxic, causing a big spike in mutagenic DNA damage (see the graph in Is Stevia Good For You?). So the question was do we have those same rat bacteria in our guts, and it turns out we do. So we now know that when we eat stevia, mutagenic compounds are produced in our colons and absorbed into our bloodstream. The only remaining question was how much.

In the World Health Organization’s evaluation of food additives, they consider up to 4 mg/kg of body weight safe. So thatís 1.8 mg per pound. If you multiply your ideal weight in pounds by 1.8, thatís about how many milligrams of stevia compounds you should stay under on an average daily basis. As long as one consumes less than, say,† two stevia-sweetened beverages a day, stevia can be considered harmless. Erithritol may be even better than harmless, though, as you can see by clicking on the NutritionFacts.org video pick above.

There are two caloric sweeteners that are health-promotingócan you guess which ones? Check out The Healthiest Sweetener for a comparison of agave nectar, blackstrap molasses, brown rice syrup, corn syrup, brown sugar, date sugar, honey, maple syrup, raw cane sugar, and turbinado sugar.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you havenít yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 presentation†Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: Anders Ljungberg / Flickr

Related:
Aspartame: Fibromyalgia & Preterm Birth
Cancer-Proofing Your Body
Coffee and Cancer

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

80 comments

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5:49AM PST on Dec 21, 2013

Time to cut down even more on these....

9:09AM PDT on Aug 15, 2013

The good Dr. Gregor doesn't mention Nectresse in the article or video. For the worry-worts, Nectresse contains erythritol, sugar (GMO sugar beets), and molasses (GMO sugar beets).
I use stevia anyway and I doubt that the one little blip a day in my morning coffee is going to do any great harm.

8:30AM PDT on Aug 15, 2013

First, let me say I've been using erythritol for years. If you have a LOT of it, it can cause a bit of the gastrointestinal problems that any polyol will cause, but it is FAR LESS than malitol or xylitol or sorbitol, which should be classed as outright laxatives, they blast you out so badly. Mostly, erythritol just keeps me regular, which is important, as I have chronic pain and take a synthetic opiate. Any opiate can cause terrible constipation, and I need to avoid that.

Second, why is Stevia being pushed so much when it was shown in this VERY ARTICLE to have mutagenic toxic side effects? ANY is too much, when it comes to your DNA! Since I have to get x-rays from time to time, I want my DNA as healthy as possible, so it can recover from the effects of the radiation. I don't need another factor possibly diddling with my genetic structure!

Third, there is a significant minority that do not taste Stevia as sweet. I should know, I'm one of them! To me, Stevia tastes like the bitterest grapefruit you've ever had, YUCK! I tried it in a cup of coffee once, just to try it, and it was utterly undrinkable. It was like drinking concentrated grapefruit juice. I tried tasting some of the stevia directly, and I had to rinse and spit! Erythritol, on the other hand, tastes sweet, if not as sweet as sugar, and slightly cooling, as if it had a tiny bit of peppermint or menthol in it. I can't taste that cooling effect in food or drink, only if I taste the powder.

I used to get it

11:05PM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

thank you for the information. like stevia, turned on a co-worker, wish the others would stop using the artificial sweetener

8:12AM PDT on Jun 6, 2013

Good info on here-thanks! I usually use raw organic honey.

10:48AM PDT on May 10, 2013

thanks so either go with Erythritol or buy a stevia plant if you can find one wow I seldom use stevia bur thought it was safe thx

8:47PM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

I prefer not to be the guinea pig.
I like to wait until the evidence is in.
So many artificial sweeteners have come into being, claiming their ability to be safe, and after a few years or so, we find out that they weren't as safe as we were told (Big surprise!).

5:44PM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

Most of the natural low cal sweeteners taste kind of bitter to me- so I have retrained my taste buds to not need sugar in iced tea, and use only a little sugar-sweetened soy milk to lighten my coffee.

5:41PM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

If you consume vast amounts of anything that is an alternative to a sugar esp artificial sweeteners you might have to run to the loo many times or have cramps in your stomach. So erythritol causes this too huh? So then its unnatural ingredient. So go for STEVIA the plant. Its such a gorgeous plant and so pretty. It doesnt like frost so make sure it goes into a pot big enough to be able to move to a more sheltered position.
One tiny leaf is all you need. Thats it!
One tiny leaf...... and its sooooooo sweet and the taste? Delicious! artificial sweeteners you might have to run to the loo many times or have cramps in your stomach. So erythritol causes this too huh? So then its unnatural ingredient. So go for STEVIA the plant. Its such a gorgeous plant and so pretty. It doesnt like frost so make sure it goes into a pot big enough to be able to move to a more sheltered ;position.
One tiny leaf is all you need. Thats it! one tiny leaf and its sooooooo sweet and the taste? Delicious!

5:38PM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

Julie I d steer clear of Xylitol. As I mentioned earlier in a post to go to a nursery and see if they have the plant called Stevia which the Nth and Sth America and have been using it and growing it successfully for centuries.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevia

This link will also show you how the Stevia plant looks like

Sarah thanks for doing the hard yards for us. It has always been said that if you CANT pronounce the word then its not good for you and relates to chemicals or basically not natural or not good for you. One of them you can tick.
I bought some Stevia in a container and upon reading the label. Im a fierce label reader! I saw the word Erythritol and went uh oh.... whats that!!!??? I did some research and couldnt make heads or tails about what it meant so i gave up but still decided that perhaps that this container wasnt good
You know i am sick to death of companies pulling the wool over our eyes in telling us genius' that we are blind and dont know. Sure some are ignorant but now a majority of us are pretty savvy about foods additives and ingredients that are dubious. Why cant they NOT doctor up a pure and natural sweetener. I am sure there is a container/packet of Stevia available but for me if you can find a plant you will get 100% pure stevia and its natural and very healthy b/c there is nothing in it that can cause you ill health.
If you consume vast amounts of anything that is an alternative to a sugar esp artificial sweetene

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