This Common Sweetener May Be Tied To Increased Heart Attacks And Strokes

Artificial sweeteners have become a popular alternative to sugar due to their low-calorie content and impact on blood sugar levels. 

However, recent studies have shown that these sweeteners may have negative effects on health

In particular, a new study has found that erythritol, a commonly used sugar substitute, may be linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. 

What are Artificial Sweeteners? 

Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes that are used to sweeten food and beverages without adding calories or raising blood sugar levels. Some of the most common artificial sweeteners include aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. 

These sweeteners are widely used in many low-calorie and sugar-free products, such as diet sodas, protein bars, and sugar-free gum.

Erythritol: A Popular Artificial Sweetener 

Erythritol can be found naturally in some fruits and fermented foods, but most erythritol used in products is produced through a manufactured fermentation process. 

Erythritol is popular as a sugar substitute because it has a similar taste and texture to sugar, but with fewer calories and a lower impact on blood sugar levels.

Increased Risk of Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events

new study published in Nature in March 2023 looked at the long-term effects of erythritol on cardiovascular disease risk. The researchers conducted untargeted metabolomics studies in patients undergoing cardiac risk assessment and found that high levels of erythritol and other polyol sweeteners were associated with an increased risk for major adverse cardiovascular events (death, nonfatal heart attack, and stroke).

The study was then validated in two independent cohorts of stable patients undergoing elective cardiac evaluation in the US and Europe.

Erythritol-Induced Blood Clot Formation 

In laboratory experiments, the researchers found that erythritol enhanced platelet reactivity and increased thrombosis formation in mice. 

Similarly, a small pilot intervention study in healthy volunteers found that ingesting erythritol led to sustained increases in plasma erythritol levels (meaning it stays in the bloodstream for an extended period of time), which then increased platelet reactivity and thrombosis potential. 

Blood platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are a type of blood cell that contribute to the formation of blood clots (thrombosis). When blood vessels are damaged, platelets rush to the site of injury and stick together to form a clot, which helps to stop bleeding. 

While this is an important function, an excessive number of platelets or excessive activation of platelets can lead to the formation of blood clots in your arteries that can block blood flow, potentially causing serious health problems such as heart attacks or strokes.

What Does This Mean for You?

The findings of this study suggest that erythritol consumption may not be as safe as previously thought, especially at higher levels. 

While more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of erythritol consumption, individuals who are concerned about their cardiovascular health may want to consider reducing their intake of erythritol and other artificial sweeteners. 

Erythritol is still considered safe by regulatory agencies, but the study’s results highlight the need for continued research into the safety of this and other artificial sweeteners.