With growing concerns about diabetes, obesity and dental health issues, many Americans are trying to limit their sugar intake and are turning to other types of sweeteners. But with so many alternatives out there, how do you know the choices you make to replace sugar are actually healthier options?
Customers may be wary of one particular non-sugar sweetener because of its complicated, chemical-sounding name. But erythritol is actually a naturally-derived, zero-calorie sweetener made from plant-based sugars that is not only a great alternative for taste and caloric reasons—it’s also proven to deliver oral health benefits and is easy to digest. That is why erythritol is starting to appear in everything from toothpaste and mouth rinse to gum and lollipops.
Erythritol: What the dentist ordered
Erythritol is often selected for products where dental health is key, such as toothpaste and sugar-free candy. A three-year clinical study by Cargill found that children who used erythritol products have less dental plaque, oral bacteria and tooth decay than those using two other common non-sugar sweeteners, xylitol and sorbitol.
The difference is even more dramatic when comparing the non-sugar alternatives with sucrose, or common table sugar. Why? Sucrose ferments in oral bacteria, leading to tooth decay, while erythritol does not ferment in oral bacteria.
Both erythritol-based toothpastes and candies are appearing in medical, pediatric and dental offices as doctors set them out as samples and refer patients to sugar-free sweets.
“Parents bring kids to their dentist hoping to reduce or eliminate dental decay,” said Dr. John Bruinsma, DDS, founder of Dr. John’s Candies and creator of THRIVE(TM) nutritional lollipops, the first line of natural, sugar-free lollipops that incorporate erythritol. “While parents could just say ‘No more sugar, period,’ that is awfully hard for kids to do. Erythritol-based options let kids enjoy sweet treats, without the negative side effects."
Dr. Bruinsma also has many patients, from children to adults, who complain of dry mouth. He finds erythritol can provide a solution.
“Many people turn to sugar candies when they have dry mouth—yet using sugar-based candies is like putting gasoline on fire, as both dry mouth and sugar are leading causes of tooth decay,” said Bruinsma. “Instead, erythritol-based candies stimulate salivary flow and help reduce dry mouth symptoms, without promoting dental decay."
An option for cancer patients
Avoiding sugar is important for everyone, but especially for those battling cancer. Dr. Bruinsma and the MaxLove Project have joined together to provide erythritol-based lollipops to children in cancer treatment.
“We have found that THRIVE lollipops work within the dietary guidelines of most pediatric cancer patients,” says Bruinsma. “Perhaps just as important, the sweets bring a moment of joy and smiles to these kids as they experience one of the simple pleasures of childhood—a lollipop.”
When it comes to sugar alternatives, erythritol is a powerful option that proves pronounceability isn’t as important as performance. Whether you want to satisfy a sweet tooth, address tooth decay, reduce sugar consumption or calories, relieve dry mouth or just brighten someone’s day, you can feel better about reaching for a product sweetened with erythritol.
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