Doctor's Note

This is the third in a video series on sweeteners. See Friday's and yesterday's video-of-the-day about aspartame. Stevia is another natural sweetener that was launched in Japan, but it could have adverse effects at high doses. See Is Stevia Good For You?. I previously addressed erythritol in A Harmless Artificial Sweetener--the too-good-to-be-true nontoxic, low-calorie, tooth friendly sweetener that may even act as an antioxidant. So what’s the catch? I'll close out this series with three videos that address a few possibilities starting with Wednesday's video-of-the-day How Diet Soda Could Make Us Gain Weight.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts:  Is There a Safe, Low-Calorie Sweetener?How to Gain Weight on Diet Soda, and Hibiscus Tea: The Best Beverage?

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  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    That is Sweet news– and no bitter aftertaste. ;-}

  • Jennifer O

    I ordered Erythritol online after one of your videos, and I am in love! I think it’s a fantastic sub for sugar, and I love that it’s not harmful and extremely low calorie. This begs the question, though- why hasn’t this sweetener been marketed mainstream? Why is it not a single person I know has ever heard of it? It seems like a miracle sweetener to me, and that it should be widespread news by now. Perhaps there’s a opportunity here to bring it to mass market?

    • WholeFoodChomper

      Hmmm, that is interesting? I wonder what is behind that. Maybe if it were more widely available, it’d be cheaper.

    • amy

      In Australia it is used in a lot of stevia sweeteners, they market it as being stevia but it is more like 90% Erythritol and 10% stevia. I can’t even taste the stevia, it’s very easy to have in tea and coffee!

    • Sean MacLeod

      Death. It’s our main industry. If it doesn’t make people sick, it doesn’t help the pharmaceutical people. Conspiracy? We’re all a living conspiracy. That is, if you believe your parents worked together to have you.

  • Thea

    This is really interesting. It seems like the holly grail, but you never hear about it in the news.

    I chew xylitol gum and suck on the mints off and on throughout the day. I would be interesting to switching to erythritol (couldn’t they have come up with an easier name?) if such products existed. I haven’t found any yet. If anyone finds something, please let us know.

    FYI for those who do not know: You *can* buy bags of the crystalized erythritol and use it in place of sugar, but I’m not sure yet what the best types uses are. There is a cookbook for cooking with xylitol. Maybe someday someone will come out with a cookbook for cooking erythritol. That would be very helpful.

    • WholeFoodChomper

      Hi Thea, I purchase the Wholesome Sweetners Zero erythritol. If you cannot find it a t a local market, it is available online via Vitacost.

      • Thea

        WholeFoodChomper: It’s taken me some time to get back to these posts. Thanks for your reply.

        I appreciate the tip. But note: I have already purchased the erythritol crystals like Wholesome sells. I am hoping to get some erythritol gum and mints like is easy to get for xylitol. I didn’t see that Wholesome has those products.

        Still, I appreciate your brand tip. I may try Wholesome next.

    • cyndishisara

      I have found that xylitol has a tremendously positive (almost giving an immunity) effect on dental health. Further if combined with soy (tempeh and tofu) 5% by calorie xylitol perhaps can rebuild bone (increasing bone density).
      Erythritol might enhance xylitol. I think it is worth while investigating it also. It has a very mild taste compared to xylitol.
      Xylitol is much cheaper. I by mine in bulk from NOW products. I am not selling xylitol. I just am a person who is excited by what it has done for me. Like you I chew (stopped because my jaw is tired) xylitol gum.

    • Michael Myers
  • Mack

    What about the sugar trehalose? Is it healthy as some sources say? Recently I read that mice lived 40% longer when given another sweet substance, glycine, the same as if they had been on a reduce methionine diet- in fact, there may be a positive interaction between the two amino acids. Fruits and vegetables have the highest ratio of glycine of all foods which may explain some of their health benefits. I’ve been using glycine powder as a sweetener recently and I find I like it very much. Could it be that glycine is a healthier sweetener than erythritol?

  • Esther Thaler

    another excellent and valuable 2 minutes from Dr. Greger!

  • Weegan

    It’s in stevia soda and coco polo chocolate for example. It has a cooling effect which may taste funny in some things.

    • Weegan

      That was Zevia

    • Diane Krstulovich

      How interesting. Fructose has a cooling effect, too. Like in jelly donuts. Is it something like that?

  • JenDiggityDirt

    I’ve made really great stuff with erythritol. It does have that strange cooling which can be weird in some things. When I’m unsure if it’ll work totally subbing sugar, I’ve successfully replaced more than half the sugar with erythritol with great results. I just used it along with dates for the sweetener in persimmon cookies last night!

    • WholeFoodChomper

      Oh, great ideas! I haven’t tried this yet, but I wonder if erythritol would work as a simple syrup. Has anyone tried this?

      • Lew Payne

        You may want to try date sugar (made of powdered dates) to make a syrup, as the fiber will cause a thickening, thus more closely emulating the consistency you seek.

        • WholeFoodChomper

          Oh, interesting suggestion! I’ll have to give that a try. I have date sugar, but I do not like it much. I find that it is not as sweet as dates (blended with a bit of water). Thanks for the tip, Lew.

          • Lew Payne

            Perhaps you might try adding erythritol to the date sugar, for an extra boost (though erythritol is less sweet than sugar). I would probably just add some Agave Syrup (much sweeter than sugar) to the date sugar mix. In fact, I think I’d prefer the Agave in this case, as its thick consistency is what you want.


          • WholeFoodChomper

            Thanks, Lew, yes, this is the exact same Erythritol that I use in other ways. I just have this “date sugar” that I need to use up (I hate to waste food). I like your suggestion. Thx!

  • Kal

    A bit ironic.
    Dr. Greger has repeatedly poked fun at the meat industries assertions that going vegan would be ‘obviously unacceptable’, and in vids like this his unstated assumption seems to be that giving up sweet junk food is clearly unacceptable, lol. It seems there are a few sacred cows in the good doctors kitchen ;-)
    These erythritol findings are nice for people who wish to keep up with their cookies and cakes, but the possibility of a fully satisfying diet devoid of junk food shouldnt be ignored.

    • Lew Payne

      Perhaps you can explain how a sweet “Kool-Aid like” drink made of erythritol, hibiscus and spices is a “junk food.” Or how black bean brownies, sweetened with erythritol, qualify as “junk food.” Your false implication is that Dr. Gregor is implicitly touting the use of erythritol in junk foods, to replace the sugar component. Some of us see a wider use for the data Dr. Gregor is touting, and choose to govern ourselves by fact rather than assumption.

    • WholeFoodChomper

      I don’t think that anyone here, at least not me, is ignoring the possibility of “a fully satisfying diet devoid of junk food”. I don’t think that is the point of this video at all. Dr. Greger is pretty clear that when it comes to food her prefers and recommends those with the most nutritional value (e.g., green tea over coffee, and in this case erythritol and/or dates over other sweeteners).

      I for one don’t like to eat cookies and cakes and such, but some dishes do call for a bit of sweetener to complete them. And those on plant-based diets need to have a healthy option to turn to. These videos help with making that choice.

      BTW- even Dr. MCDougall allows for some sugar in his PBD Carbohydrates and Sugar.

      • WholeFoodChomper

        And, given Dr. Greger’s video today Unsweetening the Diet he seems to be in agreement with you @75dace941fb67da4ab6d7c40725e1771:disqus regarding junk food.

  • Tami Djernes

    I’ve never seen plain erythritol in my local stores, however, the ingredients listed for the sweetener Truvia are: erythritol, rebiana, and natural flavors. Is the Truvia brand of erythritol safe, or should I look for 100% erythritol? Does Whole Foods carry straight erythritol?

    • Keane

      I have the exact same question about Truvia. Does it fall under “erythritol” or is it not good for us? Anyone know?

    • Lew Payne

      Truvia, in addition to erythritol, contains stevia extract. As you already know from prior videos, stevia has been linked to deterious side effects. Erythritol is readily available on amazon, and some speciality stores.

    • WholeFoodChomper

      Tami, I purchase the Wholesome Sweeteners Zero erythritol. It is 100% erythritol. If you cannot find it a t a local market, it is available online via Vitacost. I’m not a Whole Foods shopper, but I have a feeling that they probably carry some sort of 100% erythritol sweetener. It’s worth a call to find out. ;-)

    • Thea

      Tami: I’ve never tried Truvia, but I have some points for you:

      1) In researching WholeFoodChomper’s tip on the Wholesome brand, I came across a review of 3 sweeteners – all of which had at least some erythritol in it. I have no idea on the validity of the review, but I thought I would share that the reviewer did not like 2 of the 3. The two that the reviewer did not like were like Truvia in that they had other ingredients than just the erythritol. Only the brand that had only erythritol was judged to be good.

      2) I never trust a product that says “natural flavors”. That can mean almost anything. What are they hiding? Just a thought.

  • JamesKB

    Manitol can cause gas eh. There’s manitol in my B12 supp. Maybe that’s why I get a bit bloated. I’m doing pretty much everything else right.

  • John Ammerman

    One gram of erythritol is enough to kill a 10 pound dog. Dog lovers beware, erythritol is deadly to dogs.

    • WholeFoodChomper

      Hi John, I just read the article you posted. Thanks for sharing it! I just wanted to point out that the article talks about the risks of Xylitol to pets and not Erythritol. Based on these videos, I believe the two sweeteners are different. Cautious dog owners may want to look into the matter some more to see if Erythritol poses the same risk.

      • Tony

        I immediately thought about toxicity to dogs when I heard about erythritol and could only find one item… It seems that it’s not harmful to dogs if this study is correct. Does anyone have more detail or research on pet safety? I’m concerned about inadvertent consumption here as I have very crafty pups. There must be better ways to find these things out. I deplore animal testing.

  • pete

    Will you be using this in your Hibiscus Tea?

    • WholeFoodChomper

      Most definitely; it works really nicely with teas. Really anywhere where you would normally use sugar.

      Here are a couple of the ways that Dr. Greger likes to use Erythritol: What do you drink, Dr. Greger? and Pink Juice with Green Foam.

      • Michael Greger M.D.

        Thanks for sharing those links @WholeFoodChomper:disqus !

        • WholeFoodChomper


  • Massmo

    What about xylitol? It’s the closest to sugar in taste, while erythritol alters a bit the taste of beverages. Xylitol is also a polyol with no glicemic effect and non-cariogenic.

    • WholeFoodChomper

      Dr. Greger mentions the possible laxative effects of Xylitol in this very video. Suggesting that it would not be a good option for some people. See also Dr. Greger’s other videos were he discusses Xylitol; to see what the research indicates. You can do a search for them or use the “Health Topics” index to find them.

      Also, it should be noted that those with dogs who have a sweet tooth, Xylitol Xylitol toxicity in dogs.

      • Geoffrey Levens

        Xylitol does have a glycemic effect though much less so than sucrose. The laxative effect for most people, requires intake of a lot more than you would ever want to eat! If you use it as you would regular sugar you won’t have a problem unless you are the rare individual.

        Erythritol has zero glycemic effect and no effect on insulin secretion. Stevia while having no glycemic effect, apparently does stimulate insulin release

      • Azoraa

        I have been using xylitol daily in smoothies and hot beverages for the past few months since switching from erythritol. I got a 25-pound bag and and quite satisfied with it. Any colon effects have been minimal to none that I can tell.

  • Diane Krstulovich

    What is it and how does it grow? Sounds kinda’ like a chemical name, doesn’t it?

    • Diane Krstulovich

      Oh, (blush) it is.

    • Toxins

      It is actually derived from fruits, such as pears.

  • Sally

    I’d like to know what you think about the “natural flavors” in Z Sweet.

  • Penny

    What about Lakanto? No taste and 1/1 sugar replacement
    Being used in China for eons

  • natural joe

    Monin Sugarfree Syrups have been using Erythritol for years. When it used to be called Eridex. Its scary what chemicals you will find in those other coffee syrups.

  • Anita Dingman

    I would stay away from any artificial sweetener. Drink water or, if you need sweetness, use REAL sugar.

  • Ilana

    So does erythritol not have the side effects of sugars like inflammation, decreased immune function, increase of vaginal infections??

  • Ilana

    Which would be better (in terms of health) for baking – pureed dates or erythritol? Erythritol seems to have very little sweetness, though, so I find myself using what seems to be a very lot. Thanks!

  • Ronald Chavin

    Erythritol has only 1 defect which might prevent it from selling as well as sucralose and aspartame. Erythritol is only 60% to 70% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose). For comparison, sucralose is 600 times as sweet as table sugar and aspartame is 200 times as sweet as table sugar. This means that erythritol must be consumed in huge quantities:

    • WholeFoodChomper

      You make a good point. I think initially most people will use more Erythritol to get the same amount of sweetness as they do from sugar. I’ve found that I have actually used less sugar since switching to Erythritol. My taste buds have adjusted to liking things much less sweet. Erythritol might be a good way for folks to make that adjustment, too.

  • Broos

    Hello, Dr. Greger, and a thousand thanks from a *paying* subscriber!

    A bit of a stevia addict, I tried using erythritol instead, but have found two unfortunate side effects: definite bowel gas/pain and terrible persistent thirst. Interestingly I can’t find any information on the latter problem, but wondered if you’ve encountered others who’ve reported this issue.

    I thank you again for all you do. As a normal weight, non-diabetic vegan celiac fairly successfully duking it out with rheumatoid disease, I’m truly grateful for your guidance.

  • Avi

    Doctor Greger
    I enjoy your presentations and been influenced by them already as I stopped eating meat altogether. Didn’t go Vegan yet but working on it.
    Anyway, I wonder if you happened to check the sweetener combination of Erythritol and Monk Fruit extract (Siraitia Grosvenori Momordica? Maybe wrong spelling?)?
    Thank you!

  • Eileen

    I have been using Wholesome Sweeteners Zero (erythritol) for a couple of years. Today for the first time I opened a bag and it had a bad smell and the texture looked damp, less dry and granular than usual. So, I opened a second bag, same thing. Dates on bag are not expired. Will return to Whole Foods but do you have any thoughts on this product “going bad”?

  • Sebastian Tristan

    The only sweetener I tried – with the exception of sugar, maple syrup and honey – is Stevia. Regretfully, Stevia bloats me a lot. So I kinda gave up on all the sweeteners and I simply eat fruits. My favorite dessert is a dates/coconut flakes dessert.

  • Sebastian Tristan

    Can we be 100% sure that Erythritol doesn’t have any harmful effects?

    • Don Forrester MD

      I don’t think you can ever be 100% sure. Individuals may not tolerate Erythritol either in small amounts or may have dose related issues. Using sweeteners in small amounts whether erythritol or table sugar is associated with a low risk of problems. I would stay away from artificial sweeteners and limit amount.

  • Anita

    Our family has been using small amounts this sweetener daily, since we saw your video on it in 2012.
    I would appreciate you looking at this article and commenting on the validity of this recently circulated study on Erythritol:

    • Charles Peden

      I also recently read an article about erythritol killing flies. It’s interesting to think I’m consuming pesticide.

  • erythritol – insecticide?
  • HelpPlease

    Does this study warrant a reevaluation of your opinion on the safety or Erythritol for humans or just identify a secondary use as an insecticide?

  • laguna has it for 8 bucks a pound. Best price i have found. They have lots of other good stuff too.

  • JakeTheSnake

    Can you crystallize erythritol like candy? Could you make crystallized ginger with it?

  • Sean MacLeod

    Erythritol was mentioned in a hibiscus video. What’s this? Is it healthy? BOOM! There’s a video on it. The only problem in life that Dr. Greger may not be able to solve is, “What’s the best pair of sunglasses for truck drivers?” Although, the videos on macular degeneration relieve my tension on the matter :)