A study published in Nature Medicine journal on Monday has linked Erythritol, a widely used zero-calorie sweetener, to an increased risk of clotting, stroke, heart attack and even death. Dr. Stanley Hazen, director of the center for cardiovascular diagnostics and prevention at the Cleveland ClinicLerner Research Institute told reporters, “The degree of risk was not modest”. He further suggested that people with existing cardiac diseases or diabetes should avoid the use of Erythritol until more studies have been done. Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at Denver’s National Jewish Health hospital, who was not involved in the research, also expressed that there appears to be a risk in using Erythritol by saying, “This certainly sounds an alarm”. The study showed that people already at risk for heart problems had double the chance of a heart attack or stroke if they had the highest amount of Erythritol in their blood.
According to Healthline, Erythritol is a sugar alcohol like xylitol, sorbitol, and malitol. While it is not as sweet as sugar, it looks and tastes like sugar, and contains less than 1/4 calorie per gram. Unlike sugar, it does not result in an increase in blood sugar or insulin. It is found naturally in small amounts in foods such as grapes and mushrooms, and can also be produced commercially via fermentation, as noted by Food Insight. It is mostly excreted in urine, and is thus characterized as “zero-calorie”.
The study authors have pointed out that when it is incorporated into processed foods, it is typically added at levels 1,000 times higher than its natural levels, due to its lower level of sweetness compared to sucrose. The sweetener is found in a variety of products such as branded sweeteners, food items for keto diets, and reduced-sugar items marketed to those with diabetes.
The authors of the study have encouraged further studies to assess the long-term safety of Erythritol, as the results of the study may not be applicable to the general public.