Erythritol is a four-carbon polyol of structure 15. It is present naturally in a wide range of microorganisms, plants, and animals and, as such, is present in many foods. This natural form of erythritol is the symmetrical isomer and is more properly referred to as meso-erythritol. Erythritol has been commercially developed by at least two companies, Mitsubishi in Japan and Eridania Beghin-Say in Europe. In the United States, Mitsubishi Chemical Company and Cargill have formed a partnership known as M&C Sweeteners for the purpose of commercializing erythritol. Erythritol's properties and food applications have recently been reviewed (90). The sweetness potency of erythritol has been reported to be 0.6 to 0.7 times that of sucrose. Unfortunately, flavor and temporal profile data, as have been reported for most of the other sweeteners discussed in this review, are not available for erythritol. However, it is the general consensus that erythritol exhibits a clean sweet taste with a sugarlike temporal profile. Erythritol has fair solubility in water (37% at 25°C) and is very stable. It is prepared on yeast fermentation of glucose. It is easily isolated in a purity of >99% on recrystallization from the filtered fermentation broth. At this time, erythritol has already experienced significant use in foods and beverages in Japan and is expected to see use in many other countries. It was affirmed as GRAS in the United States in 1997. Of all the sugar MNSs that have been commercially developed, erythritol is the most promising because it is lowest in bioavailable calories and it is also the lowest in intestinal discomfort. It has been conservatively estimated that the bioavailable calorie content of erythritol is 0.2 cal/g. This estimate assumes that the portion of a normal dose (ie, 20-50 g in a single intake) that is not absorbed is completely fermented to short-chain fatty acids by the anaerobic bacteria of the colon. In fact, however, erythritol is very poorly fermented by these bacteria (G. DuBois and G. Stark, unpublished results, 1988), and therefore the actual bioavailable calorie content of erythritol is zero or near zero. The minimal intestinal discomfort of erythritol follows from the fact that it is readily absorbed from the small intestine, taken up into the bloodstream, and excreted in the urine. Thus, most of the fermentative and osmotic effects of a large quantity of sugar MNS in the colon are avoided.
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