Just when we think we are making good choices for our body, eating less refined sugar, trying to eat healthier foods and drink more nutritional beverages, we find out that what we thought was healthy is actually harmful and dangerous for our health. It can be found in lots and lots of products we may consume with better health in mind. One of these products is sugar-free and low-sugar protein powder–even organic protein powders can be harmful. All because of this one ingredient— erythritol.
Low-Sugar Protein Powder
In recent years, erythritol, a sugar alcohol commonly used as a sugar substitute, has gained popularity as a “healthier” alternative for individuals looking to reduce their sugar intake.
Thought to be a healthier alternative to sugar and the typical artificial sweeteners we try to avoid, new research shows erythritol is not as safe as we were led to believe. Even though we naturally have a small amount of erythritol in our bodies, a recent study has raised concerns about the potential impact of elevated erythritol levels on our cardiovascular health.
Erythritol in Protein Powders
Many sugar-free or low-sugar protein powders contain erythritol as a sweetener. Erythritol is favored for its low-calorie content and minimal impact on blood sugar levels, making it appealing to those of us looking to reduce our sugar intake.
Studies show the amount of erythritol used in products like protein powders can significantly exceed natural levels, raising concerns about potential health risks.
Studies also find a significant association between elevated erythritol levels and the risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. Individuals with the highest erythritol levels were approximately twice as likely to experience these heart-related issues over a three-year follow-up period than those with lower erythritol levels.
What is Erythritol?
Erythritol belongs to a class of compounds known as sugar alcohols or polyols. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers erythritol safe for consumption as it is a naturally occurring compound. In its natural state, erythritol is present in certain fruits and fermented foods. However, the main concern arises from the quantities used in processed foods and products like low-sugar protein powder, which can far exceed the levels found in nature.
One concerning aspect of erythritol consumption is the dramatic increase in blood levels observed after consuming just one serving of certain processed food products, often marketed as “keto-friendly” or “low-carb.” In fact, the study found that consuming just one serving of a food or beverage containing erythritol could raise blood levels of erythritol up to 1,000 times. Additionally, the risk of blood clotting increased for several days after ingesting erythritol.
Explore protein powders without added sweeteners or opt for unsweetened varieties, like this plant-based protein, allowing you to control the sweetness by adding natural ingredients like fruits or honey. If you want a pre-sweetened protein powder to make a shake quick and easy, choose a protein powder that uses natural sweeteners or alternatives to erythritol, such as stevia, monk fruit extract, fruit, honey, or organic cane sugar.
We can’t control everything, and we can’t know everything. We can’t control the ingredients manufacturers use in their products, like protein powder. But we can control what we consume. We can’t know everything about what’s healthy and not healthy. But we can keep informed and read labels carefully.
Choose your low-sugar protein powder wisely!