According to a study published in Nature Medicine, erythritol, a commonly used artificial sweetener, may be connected to cardiovascular disease.
To lower sugar and calorie intake, artificial sweeteners are employed in a variety of meals and beverages. They are frequently recommended as a sugar substitute for persons with metabolic problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Although regulatory authorities usually deem them safe, little study has been conducted on their long-term health impacts. Nonetheless, these individuals are at a higher risk of unfavorable cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.
Erythritol, a common sugar alternative, is not fully digested in the body. It occurs naturally in minor levels in fruits and vegetables, but is added in greater quantities to processed meals. In European Union (EU) legislation, erythritol is identified as E-968 and belongs to the polyol family.
Erythritol is created by fermenting corn and is approximately 70% as sweet as sugar. Erythritol is poorly metabolized by the body after consumption. Instead, it enters the bloodstream and primarily departs the body through the urine. Because the human body manufactures modest amounts of erythritol naturally, any additional consumption might build up.
Artificial sweeteners are difficult to measure, and labeling regulations are limited, with particular ingredients frequently not specified.
Researchers analyzed over 4,000 people in the United States and Europe and discovered that those with greater erythritol levels in their blood had a higher chance of a significant adverse cardiac event, such as a heart attack, stroke, or death. Scientists also looked at the effects of adding erythritol to whole blood or isolated platelets, which are cell fragments that clump together to stop bleeding and contribute to the development of blood clots.
The findings showed that erythritol aided platelet activation and thrombus formation. Preclinical research confirmed that erythritol consumption promoted thrombus development.
“Sweeteners like erythritol have gained in popularity in recent years, but further research on their long-term consequences is needed,” said Cleveland Clinic lead author Stanley Hazen. “Cardiovascular disease develops over time, and heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. We must ensure that the food we eat does not foster it.”
A prospective intervention trial with eight healthy volunteers was also carried out by the researchers. After drinking 30 g of an erythritol-sweetened beverage, they discovered sustained increases in erythritol levels beyond thresholds found to increase clotting risk in all volunteers for 2-3 days.
Sweeteners like erythritol have gained popularity in recent years.
The authors speculated that their data could point to a link between elevated erythritol levels and an increased risk of clotting. They do, however, note out that because the cohorts analyzed have a high frequency of cardiovascular risk factors, it remains to be seen whether similar results are obtained in seemingly healthy patients tracked for longer periods of time.
The authors emphasize the significance of further research to confirm their findings in the general population. There are significant limitations to the study, including the fact that clinical observational studies only indicate association, not causality.
“Our work shows that when participants consumed a beverage artificially sweetened with an amount of erythritol found in many processed foods, markedly elevated levels were observed in their blood for days – levels well above those that increase clotting risks” , says Hazen.
For Oliver Jones, professor of chemistry at RMIT University (Australia), “this is a study that invites reflection.”
Speaking to the Science Media Center, Jones says the authors not only found a “potentially important association between blood levels of the artificial sweetener erythritol and health effects, but also made the effort to show a viable pathway.” they found could be produced. While this study alone cannot prove whether this is the case or not, the authors suggest that higher erythritol levels may increase the risk of blood clot formation and this, in turn, could increase the risk of disease.”
Yet, he qualifies: “we must be conscious that correlation is not causation. As the authors point out, they discovered a correlation between erythritol and coagulation risk, but this is not conclusive evidence that such an association exists.”
For Haze, it is “important that more safety studies be conducted to investigate the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners in general, and erythritol in particular, on the risks of heart attack and stroke, particularly in people at increased risk of heart disease. disease”.
Joñes adds that while I think the finding certainly warrants further investigation, “don’t throw away your sweeteners just yet. This study only looks at erythritol, and artificial sweeteners are generally considered safe. Any possible (and as yet unproven) risk of too much erythritol should also be weighed against the very real health risks of excessive glucose consumption.”