Zero-Calorie Sweetener May Increase Risk Of Stroke Or Heart Attack

By Bill Galluccio

February 27, 2023

Factory Worker With Processed Sugar Cane
Photo: Getty Images

new study published in the scientific journal Nature found that erythritol, a zero-calorie sweetener, can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and death. Erythritol is used as a sugar substitute in many low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, and "keto" products. It is also found in the sweetener Truvia.

While erythritol is a naturally occurring compound found in the body at low levels, scientists from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute discovered that people with elevated levels had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. People with pre-existing conditions such as obesity and diabetes were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke if the level of erythritol in their blood was in the top 25%.

The issue is compounded because many artificially sweetened products are recommended to people with those pre-existing conditions because they do not impact the body's glucose levels.

"Our study shows that when participants consumed an artificially sweetened beverage with an amount of erythritol found in many processed foods, markedly elevated levels in the blood are observed for days – levels well above those observed to enhance clotting risks," senior author Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Sciences in Lerner Research Institute, said in a statement. "It is important that further safety studies are conducted to examine the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners in general, and erythritol specifically, on risks for heart attack and stroke, particularly in people at higher risk for cardiovascular disease."

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