If you have been choosing more reduced calorie beverages or plant-based sweeteners, you may have noticed the products being made with sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are a type of reduced-calorie sweetener and no, they do not contain any alcohol! You can find sugar alcohols in baked goods, candy, ice cream, beverages, and even some plant-based sweeteners. Often these products are promoted as being lower calorie, having "no added sugar," or being suitable for Diabetics since they have a lower carbohydrate count. According to the American Diabetes Association, "Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar and have less of an effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) than other carbohydrates."1 Some commonly used sugar alcohols include erythritol, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. While sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect in some people, not all sugar alcohols are created equal.
One of the benefits of using erythritol is that it does not cause tooth decay because it is not digested by bacteria. Also, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, "Erythritol's relative safety is due to its being mainly absorbed in the bloodstream and excreted unchanged in the urine. Other sugar alcohols stir-up trouble in the colon where they attract water (leading to diarrhea) or are digested by bacteria (causing gas)."2 In a study published by the National Institute for Health, it was found that erythritol was well-tolerated in feeding studies (mixed into the diet at concentrations as high as 20%) without any toxicological effects even after a high-dose exposure. 3 Similar to the statement by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, when erythritol was given to humans it was rapidly absorbed and excreted without changing metabolically, which again means little to no diarrhea or gas (like your other sugar alcohols).
While the sensitivities of people may vary, most adults can safely consume up to about 50g of erythritol per day.2 Just for reference here, 1 packet of Truvia contains 3g of erythritol, a 12-ounce can of Zevia Zero Calorie Soda contains 4g, a 18-ounce Bai Antioxidant Infusion beverage contains 8g, and an 11.5-ounce can of Bai Bubbles contains 12g.