Erythritol is a sugar alcohol found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, and it has about 70% of the sweetness of sugar. It is considered zero-calorie and is commonly used in keto and other low-carb products and foods marketed to people with diabetes. Additionally, erythritol is the largest ingredient by weight in many “natural” stevia and monkfruit products, which are 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar.
The discovery of the connection between erythritol and cardiovascular issues was purely accidental, according to lead study author Dr. Stanley Hazen. The research aimed 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. To do so, the team began analyzing 1,157 blood samples in people at risk for heart disease collected between 2004 and 2011. They found that higher levels of erythritol were connected to a greater risk of heart attack, stroke, or death within three years.
Further animal and lab tests confirmed that erythritol was “provoking enhanced thrombosis,” or clotting in the blood. Clotting is necessary in the human body, but the size of the clot made by platelets depends on the size of the trigger that stimulates the cells. With erythritol, the platelets become super responsive, producing 90% to 100% of a clot formation with just a 10% stimulant.
In response to the study, the Calorie Control Council, an industry association, said that the results were contrary to decades of scientific research showing reduced-calorie sweeteners like erythritol are safe. However, the study authors urge caution and recommend limiting erythritol in the diet, especially for people at risk of clotting, heart attack, and stroke.
The study revealed only a correlation, not causation. Any possible risks of excess erythritol would also need to be balanced against the very real health risks of excess glucose consumption. However, the researchers recommend taking a deeper dive into erythritol to determine its safety.
It’s important to be aware of the potential risks of erythritol and to limit its consumption, especially for people at risk of clotting, heart attack, and stroke. As more studies are done on erythritol’s safety, it’s vital to pay attention to food labels and choose healthier alternatives. Let’s prioritize our health by making informed decisions about what we eat and drink.
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