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Erythritol may have dental benefits, finds Cargill clinical trial

By Nathan Gray , 25-Apr-2012
Last updated the 25-Apr-2012 at 14:57 GMT

The zero calorie sweetener erythritol may boost dental health, according to data from a new Cargill sponsored clinical trial.

The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study revealed that sweetener may be more effective at preventing dental caries and reducing plaque formation than xylitol and sorbitol.

The trial, funded by Cargill’s Research & Development Centre in Europe and conducted by the University of Tartu, Estonia, found that the company’s Zerose product was better for dental health when used in candies that were consumed by school children three times a day – providing a total daily intake of 7.5 grams per day of the ingredient.

Peter De Cock, nutrition and regulatory manager for Cargill Health & Nutrition, said previous trials using xylitol chewing gum have suggested that sugar substitution in combination with saliva stimulation is responsible for lowering the risk of cavities.

“We now understand that there may be important differences between how sugar substitutes affect the oral microbiota and dental health when used in candies – and that erythritol may offer greater benefits,” he said.

De Cock told FoodNavigator that the study also revealed erythritol could help to reduce the incidence of fresh plaques by nearly one quarter – noting that at the end of the study the group receiving the ingredient had 24% less fresh plaques than at the beginning of the trail, whilst groups receiving xylitol and sorbitol saw no benefit.

Study details

The three-year long clinical trial assessed the effects of the sweeteners erythritol, xylitol and sorbitol on dental health in 485 first - and second- grade children (with an average age of eight at the beginning of the trial). De Cock explained that the children were randomly assigned to receive an orange flavoured candy which contained around 90% sweetener (either erythritol, xylitol, or a placebo using sorbitol) during school days only.

He explained that the children received three candies each containing 2.5 grams of the sweetener, three times per day for around 200 days per year. The children were then assessed for dental health using the International Caries Detection and Assessment System at their normal annual dental exams.

De Cock said that he had expected the study to show that xylitol also benefits, adding that the ‘many other influencers’ of dental health such as teeth brushing and changes to dietary behaviours could have masked any such benefit.

The researchers said that the differences between the annual caries ratings in the three intervention groups and placebo group reflect the fact that each sweetener may boost dental health. However they noted that after the second and third years of research, the incidence of calcified tissue around cavities (known as dentin) was lowest in the erythritol group.

Plaque formation was also found to be the lowest for the erythritol group in all three annual assessments.

De Cock added that after 3 years, counts of Streptococcus mutans in saliva and upper dental plaque were also lower in the erythritol group than in the xylitol and sorbitol groups.

“As companies work hard to offer unique value propositions – and as Cargill works to expand consumer awareness of the benefits of erythritol – we see a strong indication that the use of Zerose erythritol will become a major point of difference in the marketplace,” said Tim Bauer, Zerose erythritol product line manager, Cargill Health & Nutrition.