Sweetener Erythritol A Biomarker For Young Adult Weight Gain

The sugar alcohol erythritol, a common sweetener in low-calorie foods, was discovered to be an indicator for weight gain. Further, erythritol can be metabolized and produced in human bodies, contrary to earlier assumptions.

Cornell University researchers determined that young adult students who gained weight and belly fat over the course of an academic year had, at the year’s start, fifteen-fold higher blood erythritol than students who lost or maintained their weight over the same period.

Three million high school graduates become college freshman every fall, and the move from home to a college environment is associated with weight gain. The erythritol study findings inform Cornells’ EnHANCE project that seeks to understand how a young adult’s transition to college influences diet, weight, and metabolic changes.

“About 75 percent of this population experiences weight gain during the transition,” said professor Patricia Cassano, at the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. “With this in mind, it is important to identify biomarkers of risk that could guide its understanding and prevention.”

The study, involving 172 freshmen, showed that erythritol is not only absorbed from food, but is produced in the body as a product of glucose metabolism. Since high erythritol levels were associated with weight gain, more research is needed to determine whether the sweetener is a causative weight-gain factor.

Erythritol, which is found naturally in foods such as watermelon and pears, is an approved food additive in the U.S. an other countries. It has a glycemic index rating of zero, and does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels.

The Cornell researchers worked in collaboration with scientists at Braunschweig University of Technology in Germany, and the University of Luxembourg. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: Cornell Chronicle; Livestrong
Photo credit: Matt Runkle

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