According to a recent study, a popular sugar substitute with no calories is associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
The sugar replacement, also known as erythritol, can be found in small amounts naturally in some plants, such as grapes and mushrooms, but it is also manufactured industrially and added to certain foods in larger amounts.
It’s particularly popular for sweetening low-calorie, low-carb, as well as “keto” products, which are usually high in fats and low in carbs.
According to The New York Times, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic analyzed more than 4,000 American and European people who were having cardiac examinations for the study.
They discovered that individuals with the highest blood content of the artificial sweetener were at a higher risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack in the following couple of years.
It has to be noted, however, that most of the participants already suffered from cardiovascular diseases or showed risk indicators for future cardiac problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Co-author Dr. Stanley Hazen shared via The New York Times that “People are trying to do something healthy for themselves but may be doing harm instead.”
Erythritol increased the activity of platelets, a kind of blood cell that clumps together to create clots, in laboratory trials, speeding up the formation of clots.
Similar to this, the scientists found that following injury, clots developed more quickly in animals given erythritol injections than they did in those given saline.
Additionally, they collected blood samples from people who had consumed drinks sweetened with erythritol and discovered that their blood levels peaked in a matter of hours and persisted for 2 days, reaching levels that may have an impact on blood coagulation.
Increased clotting has potential to cause a heart attack or a stroke because blood flow becomes constricted when clots form, according to the study.
Hazen went on to also tell the news outlet that “Every way we looked at it, it kept showing the same signal.”
It is important to note that the research had certain drawbacks, including the fact that the majority of the participants were older than 60 and already had heart disease, putting them at a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes.
The research suggested a link between erythritol and the development of blood clots, but it did not demonstrate that the substance really contributed to heart attacks and strokes in people.
Furthermore, a functional genomics professor by the name of Greg Neely, who was not involved in the study, told the Washington Post that the research is “extremely important, and it’ll likely trigger immediate changes in whatever we consume,” Greg Neely. We do not fully understand what the consequences of industrialized food have been, and simply because something is sold as ‘natural’ does not mean it’s safe or good for us to consume at an industrial scale.”
Finally, the authors concluded that their “studies assessing the long-term safety of erythritol are warranted.”