Erythritol belongs chemically to the family of polyols (or sugar alcohols), yet it is metabolized by animals and humans very differently compared to all other polyols. While polyols have been used traditionally (for about 80 y) to replace sugar in sweet foods to reduce demineralization of tooth enamel and to reduce postprandial blood glucose levels, benefits achieved merely through the absence of sugar, emerging evidence shows that erythritol can play a number of functional roles to actively support maintenance of oral and systemic health. Oral health studies revealed that erythritol can reduce dental plaque weight, reduce dental plaque acids, reduce counts of mutans streptococci in saliva and dental plaque, and reduce the risk for dental caries better than sorbitol and xylitol, resulting in fewer tooth restorations by dentist intervention. Systemic health studies have shown that erythritol, unlike other polyols, is readily absorbed from the small intestine, not systemically metabolized, and excreted unchanged within the urine. This metabolic profile renders erythritol to be noncaloric, to have a high gastrointestinal tolerance, and not to increase blood glucose or insulin levels. Published evidence also shows that erythritol can act as an antioxidant and that it may improve endothelial function in people with type 2 diabetes. This article reviews the key research demonstrating erythritol's oral and systemic health functionalities and underlying mechanisms.
Keywords: Streptococcus mutans; caries; diabetes mellitus; plaque biofilms; prevention; vascular biology.