Lead Researcher Advises, Stay Away from Sugar Substitutes Linked to Heart Attacks, Stroke, and Death

According to an online study published in Nature Medicine journal Monday, Erythritol (a popular substitute for sugar that is zero-calorie) has been linked with blood clotting and stroke.

CNN’s Dr. Stanley Hazen, the Cleveland ClinicLerner Research institute director and lead author of the study, stated that “the degree of risk wasn’t modest”.

Hazen added that “for people at risk of clotting, heart attacks, and stroke — such as people with existing cardiac disease or those with diabetes — I believe there’s enough data here to say stay off of erythritol until more studies are done.”

“This certainly sounds alarming,” Dr. Andrew Freeman of Denver’s National Jewish Health hospital, said to the outlet. Freeman wasn’t involved in the research.

Freeman stated that erythritol may increase the risk of clotting.

The study’s authors state that “our findings reveal that erythritol has been associated with incident MACE risks and fosters enhanced blood thrombosis.”

MACE stands for Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events. MACE can be defined as death, nonfatal myocardial injury, or stroke. When blood clots block veins and arteries, it is called thrombosis.

CNN reported that the study showed that people at high risk of heart disease were twice as likely to have a stroke or suffer from heart attacks if they had high levels of erythritol.

CNN’s Hazen said that it was on par with diabetes and the most severe cardiac risk factors like heart disease. Hazen was referring specifically to those whose blood levels of erythritol were in the top 25% of the study population.

This study was done on people at high risk of developing cardiovascular problems. The results are not applicable to a wider population.

The authors recommend further research to assess the safety and long-term effectiveness of erythritol.

According to Healthline, Erythritol can be described as a sugar alcohol, like sorbitol and xylitol. Although it tastes and looks like sugar, it is not as sweet. It has less than 1/4 calories per gram. Erythritol is not like sugar and does not cause insulin spikes or blood sugar spikes.

Food Insight says it is naturally found in grapes and mushrooms, and can also be produced commercially by fermentation. The study authors point out that it is not well metabolized and is mostly excreted in the urine. This is why it has been referred to as “zero-calorie.”

According to the study’s authors, erythritol is found in very low quantities in food. It is often added to processed foods at 1,000-fold higher levels than endogenous levels. This is due to erythritol’s lower sweetness relative to sucrose.

Bulk sweetener is found in many products including brands like Truvia, products for keto diets, and products that are low-sugar for people with diabetes.