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Artificial Sweetener Linked to Heart Attack and Stroke

Artificial Sweetener Linked to Heart Attack and Stroke
Artificial Sweetener Linked to Heart Attack and Stroke. Credit: Irfansevket2905 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Artificial sweeteners are often touted as a healthier alternative to sugar, but a new study has raised concerns about the popular sweetener erythritol. The findings of the study suggest that erythritol may be associated with an increased risk of both cardiovascular disease and stroke.

“The degree of risk was not modest,” said Dr. Stanley Hazen, the director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute and the lead author of the study.

Details of the Study

Almost 4,000 participants from the United States and Europe participated in the study, which was conducted by a group of researchers from the Cleveland Clinic in the United States. They discovered that those individuals who had greater amounts of erythritol in their blood were at an increased risk of suffering a detrimental cardiac event such as a stroke, heart attack, or even death.

“If your blood level of erythritol was in the top 25% compared to the bottom 25%, there was about a two-fold higher risk for heart attack and stroke. It’s on a par with the strongest of cardiac risk factors, like diabetes,” Dr. Hazen said.

In addition, the effects of including erythritol in either the blood or the platelets alone were investigated in the research recently published in the journal Nature Medicine. According to the findings of the researchers, erythritol made it easier for the platelets to activate and combine into a clot.

“There appears to be a clotting risk from using erythritol,” Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health said. “Obviously, more research is needed, but in an abundance of caution, it might make sense to limit erythritol in your diet for now.”

What is Erythritol?

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is often used as a sugar replacement in a wide range of items, including sugar-free gum, candy, and soft drinks. Erythritol comes from the same family as ethanol, which is another kind of sugar alcohol.

It is a popular choice among those who are trying to reduce their sugar intake or manage diabetes because it has very few calories and does not raise blood sugar levels. However, this new study finds that erythritol may have significant negative effects on cardiovascular health.

Erythritol is created by fermenting maize and has a sweetness that is 70% as sweet as sugar. However, it is poorly digested by the body upon consumption. Hence, it enters the circulatory system and most of it is expelled from the body via the urine.

Excess Erythritol in the Body May Be Detrimental To Health

Since the human body only produces trace quantities of erythritol on its own, any extra ingestion may lead to a buildup of the substance. The researchers caution that more research is needed to fully understand the potential risks of erythritol and its effects on the body.

“Sweeteners like erythritol have rapidly increased in popularity in recent years, but there needs to be more in-depth research into their long-term effects,” Dr. Hazen said. He continued, “Cardiovascular disease builds over time, and heart disease is the leading cause of death globally. We need to make sure the foods we eat aren’t hidden contributors.”



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