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Study links artificial sweetener erythritol to heart attack and stroke

Artificial sweeteners: Where do we stand?
Posted at 3:37 PM, Mar 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-08 17:55:37-05

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, a new study suggests the artificial sweetener erythritol may raise the risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart attacks.

Many people believe that artificial sweeteners are better than sugar, but this study linked erythritol to some serious health risks.

When people see the words “no sugar” or “less sugar” on food packaging, many automatically think it’s a better choice. Even the researchers at Cleveland Clinic who conducted this study were surprised by their findings. They were looking for compounds in blood that might help predict a person’s risk of an adverse cardiovascular event. That’s when erythritol was discovered as the top candidate.

The researchers studied over 4,000 people in the US and Europe over three years. And found those with higher blood erythritol levels were at an elevated risk of experiencing a stroke, heart attack, blood clots, and even cardiovascular death. The study observed elevated levels of erythritol in participants’ blood that lasted for several days after a beverage was consumed with this artificial sweetener. And these levels enhanced clotting risks.

In my opinion, this is concerning. Erythritol is found in a ton of reduced-sugar products, especially keto-friendly food products. It’s definitely increased in popularity. It’s also marketed for weight loss because it’s zero calories. And it can be recommended to people who are obese, have diabetes, or have metabolic syndrome. And unfortunately, these folks are already at a much higher risk for heart attacks and strokes.

First of all, let me say that this study does not prove that erythritol causes heart attacks and strokes. More research is definitely needed. Right now, the FDA has erythritol labeled as “Generally Recognized As Safe.” Having said that, I would err on the side of caution. Because after you eat or drink products with erythritol, it enters the bloodstream and leaves the body mainly through urine. However, additional consumption can accumulate.

Now how can you avoid or cut back on artificial sweeteners? Well, start with processed foods. That’s where you’ll find artificial sweeteners, especially erythritol. Also, cut back on sugary drinks like pop, fruit drinks, and sweat tea. You can sweeten your food and drinks with natural sugars like raw honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup. But be mindful that they may contain high-fructose corn syrup, which has been linked to serious health issues, including diabetes and heart disease. I personally recommend eating wholesome, nutrient-dense foods, and drinking water with fresh or frozen fruit as they will naturally sweeten the drink. You can also talk to your family doctor or a dietician to learn more about healthier options.