New research suggests Erythritol may contribute to Heart Attack and Stroke Risk

A new study published in Nature Medicine has found a potential link between high levels of erythritol, a zero-calorie sweetener commonly used in sugar replacement or reduced-sugar products, and an increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes, for older adults who are already at risk of heart disease. The study discovered that patients who experienced a major adverse cardiovascular event had higher levels of erythritol after three years of observation. However, researchers caution that more research is needed, and it is too early to definitively say that erythritol causes problems for regular consumers, as the study’s results may not apply to everyone.

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol naturally found in fruits such as watermelons, pears, and grapes but is now processed as a food additive to sweeten and enhance the flavor of foods, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The average U.S. adult, teenager, and child consume nearly 17 teaspoons, or 270 calories worth, of added sugar a day, which is contributing to the growing obesity epidemic worldwide. As a result, artificial sweeteners are becoming increasingly common ingredients found in soft drinks, “diet” foods, and other processed products.

Dietitian Anna Taylor advises fresh or frozen fruit as the healthiest way to sweeten food or drinks. She also recommends looking for other sugar substitutes like Stevia-based sweeteners that are herbal as opposed to artificial. However, the study says that erythritol is often combined with other sugar substitutes to help add bulk to the sweeteners. Natural sugars like raw honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, and raw sugar gives more nutrients than table sugar, including antioxidants, vitamins, and prebiotic gut bacteria. Still, they often have hidden ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, which has been linked to long-term metabolic complications, according to Taylor.

Recommendation of Experts

The American Heart Association recommends drastically lowering added sugar in a daily diet to help lower the risk of obesity and heart disease and focusing on more whole foods like a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Taylor suggests cutting the sugar habit by weaning off sweeteners in everyday snacks and foods or substituting sweetened foods for other options. She advises drinking plain water, unflavored tea, coffee, bubbly water, or water with fruit infused in it instead of soda, sweet tea, fruit drinks, packs of sugar or sugar alternative for coffee or tea, or artificially sweetened flavor packets for water.