New Study Links Artificial Sweetener Erythritol to Heart Health Risks
A new study has linked the artificial sweetener erythritol to higher risks of heart health problems, including heart attack and stroke. Erythritol, which is found naturally in certain fruits and fermented foods, is added as an artificial sweetener to processed foods in significantly higher concentrations than what would naturally be present; in some cases, it can make up more than half the weight of the product.
A study analyzing data from American and European patients going through elective cardiac evaluations discovered that individuals with existing heart disease risk factors had a twofold increased chance of experiencing a heart attack or stroke if they had high erythritol levels in their blood. Risk factors that may be present include diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, as well as other conditions.
Lead author Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., said in a media release, “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.” Thus, 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.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared Erythritol as “Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS)”, thus eliminating the necessity for long-term safety studies. However, Hazen's research had a simple goal – to find unknown chemicals or compounds in a person's blood that might predict their risk for a heart attack, stroke or death in the next three years. The team commenced by analyzing 1,157 blood samples from individuals having a potential to develop heart disease, which were collected between 2004 and 2011.
The researchers' findings indicate that any potential risks of excess erythritol should be balanced against the very real health risks of excess glucose consumption. Additionally, due to the fact that most participants already had some form of cardiovascular disease or exhibited risk factors for developing cardiac issues in the future, the “translatability” of the findings to the general population needs to be determined.
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