Is your sugar substitute increasing the risk of a heart attack and stroke?

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artificial-sweetener-linked-to-heart-attacks(NaturalHealth365)  If you have been following a low-sugar, low-carb, or keto lifestyle, check the labels on the sweeteners that you use.  A new study published on February 29, 2023, in the journal Nature Medicine found that erythritol, a popular sugar substitute, has been linked to serious health conditions, including heart attack, stroke, blood clotting, and death.

According to Dr. Stanley Hazen, lead study author and director for the Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, the risk is quite high.

Study links popular sugar substitute to increased risk of cardiovascular disease

Erythritol is a popular sugar replacement.  It is a sugar alcohol, like xylitol and sorbitol, which are a type of carbohydrate that people use as a sugar substitute like, stevia, monk fruit, or allulose.  Commercially, it is also used to sweeten sugar-free drinks and foods, and it is typically mixed with sugar substitutes like Truvia and stevia.

While it does occur in nature when cheese, beer, and wine ferment, the form marketed to consumers as a sugar substitute is typically man-made.  Erythritol was approved by the World Health Organization in 1999 and by the FDA in 2001.

For the most part, it has been touted as a safe sugar alternative since the 1990s.  There has been some focused marketing specifically to diabetics because it does not affect glucose and does not raise the glycemic index.  Unfortunately, no one looked at its potential danger, especially in that particular group.

But they are looking now.

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Erythritol is bad news especially for people with diabetes and high blood pressure

Individuals who are already at risk for heart disease have an increased likelihood of experiencing a stroke or heart attack if they have high levels of erythritol in their blood.  The study found that they actually double their likelihood of a cardiac event.  This places people with existing cardiac risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes at an increased risk for a major event.

The paper also included additional animal and lab research that showed erythritol appeared to be a significant clotting risk, causing blood platelets to form clots faster and more frequently.  These clots can break free and travel to the brain, which could cause a stroke, or to the heart, which can trigger a heart attack.

Researchers make a SHOCKING discovery

At the beginning of the study, the researchers had no intention of examining erythritol or other foods specifically.  Instead, the focus was on compounds or chemicals in a person’s blood that could predict their risk of stroke, heart attack, or death within the next three years.  The study began with the analysis of 1,157 blood samples taken from people already identified as at risk for heart disease.

They found a substance that seemed to be a major player in the increased risk but did not know what it was.  Further investigation found that it was the sweetener erythritol.  While the human body does produce erythritol, the amounts are so low there is no way it could be why the individuals’ blood levels were so high.

To confirm the finding, the researchers analyzed an additional 2,100 blood samples from individuals in the U.S. as well as 833 blood samples from individuals in Europe.  An estimated 75% of those participants had high blood pressure or coronary disease.  Around a fifth of the people were diabetic.

In all the participants, the researchers confirmed that there is an association between high levels of erythritol and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, or death within three years.

Erythritol increases clotting risk even in healthy volunteers

In the last portion of the study, the researchers gave eight healthy volunteers a beverage containing 30 grams of erythritol (the equivalent of a pint of keto ice cream).  Many people in the U.S. consume this amount in a day or even one serving.  Then, the volunteers were given blood tests over the next three days while the researchers tracked both the erythritol levels and clotting risk.

The results were sobering.  Just 30 grams of erythritol was sufficient for raising the blood levels of erythritol.  This exceeds the threshold required to heighten and trigger a clotting risk.  The levels soared a thousandfold and stayed elevated for the next two to three days.

How to avoid the sugar substitute health threat

The best way to protect yourself from consuming high amounts of sugar substitutes, such as erythritol, is to maintain a diet of whole (organic) foods – with an emphasis on locally sourced vegetables and fruits.  If you want something sweet, eat fruit.  You can use organic fruit and (fresh) fruit juice to make sorbets or simply eat them as they are.

If you do purchase products with sugar alternatives, read the labels.  Erythritol has many names, so it could still be there even if you don’t see it on the label.  Look for “sugar alcohol” or “reducing sugar.”  If you aren’t certain, it is best to avoid it.

Your health is too important to compromise it for a few sweet moments where the taste is transient, but the effects could be prolonged and unwanted.

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