New low-calorie sweeteners appear on the market at a rate almost too fast to keep up with.
One of the newer types is Swerve Sweetener, a calorie-free sugar replacement made from natural ingredients.
This article discusses what Swerve is and some of its potential benefits and drawbacks.
It has zero calories, zero net carbs and is certified non-GMO and non-glycemic, which means it does not raise your blood sugar.
Swerve bakes, tastes and measures cup-for-cup like regular sugar. It comes in granular and confectioners sugar forms, as well as in individual packets.
Unlike artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose, Swerve Sweetener is made from natural ingredients only and all ingredients are sourced from the United States and France.
Furthermore, unlike natural sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit, Swerve is ideal for baking as it caramelizes and holds its shape like sugar.
Summary Swerve Sweetener is a sugar substitute that has zero calories and does not raise your blood sugar. It’s made from natural ingredients and can be used for baking.
Swerve Sweetener is made from three ingredients: erythritol, oligosaccharides and natural flavor.
First, erythritol is made by fermenting glucose with a microorganism in brewery tanks, similar to the way that beer and wine are made.
Then, enzymes are added to starchy root vegetables to break down the starch, resulting in oligosaccharides.
Finally, natural flavors are added to replicate the taste of table sugar.
Here’s a closer look at these ingredients.
Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol like xylitol, mannitol and sorbitol.
It’s found naturally in small amounts in some fruits and vegetables. However, the erythritol in Swerve Sweetener is created by fermenting glucose from non-GMO corn with Moniliella pollinis, a yeast-like fungus (1).
Erythritol has 60–80% of the sweetness of sugar, with only 0.2 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram in table sugar ().
Oligosaccharides are sweet-tasting carbohydrates composed of short chains of sugars. They’re found naturally in fruits and starchy vegetables ().
The oligosaccharides in Swerve Sweetener are made by adding enzymes to starchy root vegetables. The company that makes Swerve does not reveal which vegetables or enzymes are used in this process (1).
Oligosaccharides can be made up of the simple sugars fructose or galactose, but it’s unknown which of these types Swerve contains.
Because oligosaccharides are prebiotic fibers that cannot be broken down by the human digestive tract, they’re considered calorie-free ().
Instead, they pass intact through your digestive system into your colon, where they support the growth of healthy bacteria ().
Natural flavors are substances that manufacturers add to products to improve their taste.
However, the term “natural” can be misleading.
The FDA defines natural flavors as substances extracted from edible plant and animal parts, as well as those produced using yeast or enzymes (4).
Many natural flavors are created in laboratories by food chemists using natural sources.
Since companies don’t have to disclose their sources, people who are vegetarian or vegan may not be aware that they could be consuming flavors derived from animal products.
According to the Swerve website, the sweetener is made using “a little natural flavor from citrus” (1).
Summary Swerve Sweetener is made from erythritol, oligosaccharides and natural flavors. According to the company, it contains erythritol sourced from non-GMO corn, oligosaccharides from root vegetables and citrus-based natural flavors.
Because the human body cannot digest the ingredients in Swerve, the sweetener contains zero calories and does not raise blood sugar levels or insulin.
As explained above, erythritol cannot be broken down by your body. Therefore, though it contains 0.2 calories per gram, Swerve can be labeled as a calorie-free food ().
Studies have shown that erythritol does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels (, ).
Oligosaccharides contribute 4 grams of carbohydrates per teaspoon of Swerve. However, because they cannot be digested by the human body, these carbs don’t contribute to the total calories.
Studies have also shown that oligosaccharides don’t cause an increase in blood sugar or insulin levels ().
Summary Because your body cannot digest the carbohydrates in Swerve Sweetener, it’s calorie-free and does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels.
Erythritol and oligosaccharides, the two main ingredients in Swerve, have been associated with digestive upsets.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, and both erythritol and oligosaccharides are high in FODMAPS, which are short-chain carbohydrates that are fermented by bacteria in your gut
Sugar Alcohols May Cause Digestive Issues
Because your body cannot digest them, sugar alcohols travel through your digestive tract unchanged until they reach the colon.
In the colon, they are fermented by bacteria, which can lead to gas, bloating and diarrhea.
However, studies have suggested that erythritol may have less of an effect on your digestion, compared to other sugar alcohols.
Unlike other sugar alcohols, about 90% of erythritol is absorbed into your bloodstream. Thus, only 10% makes it to your colon to be fermented ().
Additionally, erythritol seems to be more resistant to fermentation compared to other sugar alcohols ().
In fact, studies have shown that erythritol in doses up to 0.45 grams per pound (1 gram per kg) of body weight is well tolerated (, 10).
Yet, other studies have shown that a single dose of 50 grams of erythritol was linked to nausea, and 75 grams of erythritol was associated with bloating and diarrhea in 60% of people (, ).
High in FODMAPs
Both oligosaccharides and erythritol are high-FODMAP foods. FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that can cause digestive issues for some people when fermented by gut bacteria.
A diet high in FODMAPs has been shown to cause abdominal pain and bloating in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) ().
Therefore, you may want to steer clear of Swerve and other natural sweeteners if you’re prone to digestive symptoms.
However, as long as you don’t eat high amounts of Swerve at a time, it’s unlikely to cause symptoms. Individual tolerance to the ingredients in Swerve may vary.
Summary Swerve contains erythritol and oligosaccharides, both of which are high in FODMAPS, which may cause digestive issues. At small amounts, Swerve is unlikely to cause these problems.
Swerve Sweetener is a sugar replacement made from the natural ingredients erythritol, oligosaccharides and natural flavors, though it's unknown what exact sources the manufacturer uses to make the latter.
It’s calorie-free and doesn't raise blood sugar or insulin levels, but high amounts may cause digestive upset.
If you like the taste and don’t experience digestive symptoms when consuming Swerve, it appears to be safe in low to moderate amounts.