A new study published in Nature Medicine on Monday found that a sugar replacement in artificial sweeteners, used in popular weight-loss diets, is linked to a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Erythritol, commonly found in keto diets to sweeten stevia or monk fruit products, is used as a sugar replacement because it does not cause a spike in blood sugar and contains zero calories. But the study found that diabetics and other people with an increased risk of heart disease were twice as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke if they had the highest levels of erythritol in their system.
Artificial sweeteners are displayed, on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, in New York. A study on Monday Feb. 27, 2023 found a link between the sugar alcohol erythritol and heart attacks and strokes. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)
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“The degree of risk was not modest,” Dr. Stanley Hazen, the lead author of the study, told CNN. “If your blood level of erythritol was in the top 25% compared to the bottom 25%, there was about a twofold higher risk for heart attack and stroke. It’s on par with the strongest of cardiac risk factors, like diabetes.”
The danger comes from the appearance that erythritol causes platelets in the blood to clot more easily. Although clotting is normal in the case of an injury, blood clots can break off in the bloodstream and travel to the brain, which would cause a stroke, or the heart, causing a heart attack.
“For people who are at risk for clotting, heart attack, and stroke — like people with existing cardiac disease or people with diabetes — I think that there’s sufficient data here to say stay away from erythritol until more studies are done,” Hazen said. “I normally don’t get up on a pedestal and sound the alarm, but this is something that I think we need to be looking at carefully.”