Erythritol is a polyalcol naturally present in fruit and fermented foods. It is used successfully as a natural sweetener because it has zero calories but a great taste, with no aftertaste.
At industrial level it is obtained from sugary substrates (dextrose, starch, glucose, sucrose) by fermentation by selected yeasts such as Saccharomyces Cerevisiae.
In Japan and the United States it has been approved and available for more than a decade. In 2006 the European Commission included erythritol in the list of polyvalent food additives.
With the Directive 2008/100 / EC the Commission has recognized and assigned to erythritol an energy value equal to 0 kcal/gr.
As a food additive, erythritol can perform different functions, but it is mainly used as a sweetener: the aromatic profile is very similar to sucrose, with a sweetening power of about 60-70% and this makes it a useful alternative to traditional sugar ; used in combination with intensive sweeteners can increase the sweetness of the ingredients, add body and disguise unwanted aftertaste.
Over 90% of ingested erythritol is readily absorbed into the small intestine through passive diffusion. This fraction is not metabolised and is eliminated through the urine. The remaining fraction (< 10%) reaches the large intestine where it is only partially metabolized. As a consequence, the total caloric value of erythritol is very low and ranges from 0 to a maximum of 0.2 kcal/gr.
Erythritol has a much higher digestive tolerance compared to other polyalcohols which, when consumed in high quantities, can cause undesirable intestinal side effects (relaxation, abdominal cramps, flatulence, diarrhea). Clinical studies have shown that in adults the gastrointestinal effects following the intake of erythritol up to 1 g/kg of body weight (for a maximum of 80 g/day) do not differ statistically from those caused by the intake of similar levels of sucrose.
Erythritol is characterized by almost zero values of glycemic index (IG) and insulin index (II) and is therefore a valuable substitutive ingredient of sucrose to reduce the glycemic impact of the diet, suitable for those at risk or suffering from diabetes.
Recent studies have also highlighted the antiradical activity of erythritol, which has proved to be an excellent scavenger of hydroxyl radicals, with protective properties for cell membranes. Erythritol therefore acts as an antioxidant in vivo and can help reduce the glycemic impact of food and drink, countering the effects of free radicals induced by hyperglycemia.
Erythritol has been certified as a tooth-friendly product. Its acariogenicity is widely demonstrated: erythritol is not converted into acids by the bacteria present in the mouth, therefore it does not favor dental caries. On the contrary, it seems to have a protective role, similar to that of xylitol, against bacterial plaque.
The glycemic index (GI) by definition indicates the ability of carbohydrates present in foods to increase the blood sugar level. To calculate it we refer to a standard level represented by pure glucose (equal to 100).
When we talk about blood sugar we mean the amount of glucose contained in the blood.
As a result of digestion processes, blood sugar induces the production of a hormone, known as insulin. The latter is responsible for causing or not the process that causes the weight gain. In the presence of a high insulin response from a certain food, the chances of a weight gain will be greater.
Furthermore, knowing the GI of various foods can be very useful for those suffering from diabetes, pre-diabetic conditions or other metabolic syndromes. In this way you will be able to make conscious food choices daily in a correct way avoiding any risky glycemic peaks.
Glycemic index calculation
Not all glucides, for the same amount consumed, cause the same glycemic response. Thanks to the glycemic index we can evaluate the ability of a carbohydrate to release a certain amount of glucose following digestive processes.
Each food, therefore, has a different range than the rise in blood sugar levels.
Another concept to introduce when we talk about the index is that of the Glycemic Load. It is a parameter obtained from the ratio between the glycaemia index of a certain food and its average portion. To calculate this parameter, therefore, it is necessary to multiply the IG of the food considered by the quantity assumed.
This way you can get an idea of what you are consuming by evaluating the doses you eat. It is not necessary to avoid a food with high IG altogether but simply to reduce the quantities.
Low glycemic index
Not all carbohydrates behave the same way. Some release glucose slowly, while others are easily absorbed and the blood sugar rises immediately. In the case of a low index, the glycemic response following the assumption of that food will be reduced or irrelevant. Lentils, for example, do not involve a particular increase in blood glucose levels. This does not happen, instead, if we consume food like potatoes. In any case it is good to take into account the fact that other factors can influence this calculation. In particular, the degree of ripeness of a fruit, the variety of a cereal or the heat treatment of a certain food are elements to consider.
Pasta, like bread and other types of cereals, has a medium-high glycemic index. It is in fact composed of complex sugars that are easily broken down into simple carbohydrates to be absorbed. When consumed together with fiber or other foods, their absorption is slower and more gradual. Wholemeal flours, therefore, represent a good compromise because they have a lower GI. Even the cooking of durum wheat semolina pasta influences its index. This value increases if we prolong the cooking time of the pasta. Al dente cooking, on the other hand, is recommended to keep the GI low. Combining fiber-rich seasonings, such as vegetables and legumes, is another excellent strategy for eating pasta by reducing glycemic peaks.
The IG of rice depends on its variety and the type of cooking. The varieties with a higher fiber content are those with minor IG. This is the case of venere rice, red rice and whole quality. The classic boiled white rice tends to lead to a glycemic peak. However, the glycemic response preparing a risotto is less.
Among the fruits with higher glycemic index we find the watermelon, followed by mango, kiwi, banana and pineapple. A lower glycemic response, on the other hand, is produced by the intake of fruits such as avocados, peaches, figs, apples and pears. Even in these, however, the variety of fruits and especially their degree of ripeness must be taken into account. A ripe fruit tends to be associated with a greater value than its index.
However, the fiber contained in the fruit allows to increase the time necessary for the absorption of the sugars contained in it.