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Xylitol vs. Erythritol

When it comes to polyols (commonly referred to as sugar alcohols), erythritol is quite different than xylitol. Swerve is a blend of erythritol and oligosaccharides. Swerve does not contain xylitol. Here are a few ways the two sweeteners compare.

Calories

Erythritol has 0 calories per gram.

Xylitol has 2.4 calories per gram.
Source:  Alternative Sweeteners, Fourth Edition, Edited by Lyn O’Brien Nabors

Calories per gram of different sugars

Digestive Tolerance of Erythritol

Erythritol, unlike other polyols, is readily absorbed and therefore prevents the accumulation of unabsorbed products in the large intestine.

The available data clearly demonstrate that erythritol has a much lower potential to cause laxative effects as compared to other polyols, or even compared to sugar like lactose and tagatose. The laxation threshold for erythritol is generally from 2-fold (compared to xylitol and isomalt) to 4-fold (compared to sorbitol and mannitol) greater than other polyols.
Source:  Alternative Sweeteners, Fourth Edition / Edited by Lyn O’Brien Nabors.  Copyright 2012

Unlike other polyols, erythritol combines the unique properties of being noncaloric and possessing a high digestive tolerance.

Because erythritol is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine and rapidly eliminated by the body within 24 hours, laxative side effects sometimes associated with excessive polyol consumption are unlikely when consuming erythritol-containing foods (Arrigoni et al. 2005: Muller 2007).
Source:  Sweeteners:  Nutritional Aspects, Applications, and Production Technology / edits by Theodoros Varzakas, Athanasios Labropoulos, and Stylianos Anestis.  Copyright 2012

Digestive Tolerance of Xylitol

Ingested xylitol is absorbed by passive or facilitated diffusion from the intestine (Bassler 1969; Lang 1969).  The absorption rate is quite slow, which means that high oral doses may induce transient osmotic diarrhea.
Source:  Sweeteners:  Nutritional Aspects, Applications, and Production Technology / edits Theodoros Varzakas, Athanasios Labropoulos, and Stylianos Anestis.  Copyright 2012

As with all polyols and slowly metabolized carbohydrates (e.g. lactose) the consumption of large doses of xylitol can cause certain gastrointestinal side effects.  The factors affecting the tolerance of xylitol are its limited absorption and digestibility in the small intestine, which give rise to symptoms that are also commonly associated with malabsorption, including flatulence, accelerated intestinal transit times, bloating, borborygmi, and in the most severe cases, diarrhea (laxation).
Source:  Sweeteners and Sugar Alternatives in Food Technology / Edited by Helen Mitchell.  Copyright 2006

PubMed:  Gastrointestinal tolerance of erythritol and xylitol ingested in liquid.

Dental Health benefits of erythritol and xylitol

It has long been known that polyols can play an important role in dental hygiene by preventing the growth of bacteria that cause dental caries (cavities).

The ability of xylitol to inhibit the development of caries has been demonstrated in numerous clinical and field studies.  These studies have consistently shown that when xylitol-containing confectionery or chewing gum is consumed as part of a normal daily diet, in conjunction with accepted oral hygiene practices, new caries incidence is significantly reduced (typically by 40-80%).
Source: Sweeteners and Sugar Alternatives in Food Technology / Edited by Helen Mitchell.  Copyright 2006

A more recent study (2014) conducted on primary school children looked at the effect of consuming erythritol versus xylitol lozenges for long-term dental health.  The effects of erythritol over the extended study period showed that the erythritol group had a significantly lower number of dental caries versus the xylitol group or control.

PubMed:  Effect of erythritol and xylitol on dental caries prevention in children.

Ingestion of erythritol and xylitol by dogs (canines)

Erythritol has been shown to be safe for canine consumption.  In a study conducted over a 53 week period, it was concluded that erythritol was well tolerated by dogs.

Conversely, xylitol is toxic to dogs and can lead to death.

While xylitol is considered safe in humans, canine ingestions have resulted in severe and life-threatening signs associated with increased insulin secretion leading to hypoglycemia.  Acute death due to severe hypoglycemia if untreated is possible, and liver failure may develop 1 to 3 days after xylitol ingestion.

Xylitol ingestion in dogs causes a dose-related insulin release that is greater than the response to an equal dose of glucose.  Peak serum insulin concentrations have been observed to be 6-fold greater following ingestion of xylitol compared to glucose and so may lead to several hypoglycemia.

The mechanism of action for liver damage in dogs is not fully understood; however, it is thought to be related to either ATP depletion during metabolism of xylitol leading to hepatic necrosis or the production of hepatocyte-damaging reactive oxygen species.
Source:  Common Toxicologic Issues in Small Animals, An Issue of Veterinary Clinics:  Small Animal Practice / Safdar N. Khan, Stephen B. Hooser.  Copyright 2012

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