Consumption of erythritol, a low-calorie sugar substitute, has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and death, according to a new study. The researchers stressed that this relationship has not yet been fully elucidated and called for more in-depth research on this sweetener.
The results of the new research were published on February 27 by a team of 18 scientists in the scientific journal Nature Medicine. Scientists admit that they are surprised by the results of the study, which was not originally intended to focus on the relationship between the consumption of the popular sweetener – erythritol, also known as erythritol – and an increased risk of certain diseases.
As they explain, they initially looked for any factors that increase the risk of stroke, heart attack or death over the next three years. For this purpose, they analyzed 1,157 blood samples taken from patients in 2004-2011. – We found a substance that seemed to play a big role, but we didn’t know what it was. Then we discovered it was erythritol, a sweetener,” study co-author Dr. Stanley Hazen, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Diagnostics at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, told CNN.
The dangerous sweetener erythritol
To confirm their findings, the researchers analyzed more than 2,100 more samples taken from people in the United States, and an additional 833 samples from Europe. All subjects whose blood was found to have erythritol were at the same time at increased risk of blood clots, heart attack, stroke or death. About three-quarters of those surveyed already had coronary artery disease or high blood pressure, and 20 percent were diagnosed with diabetes.
To understand the relationship between the increased risk of the described diseases and the content of erythritol in the blood, the scientists proceeded to the next stage of the study, conducted on animals. This popular sweetener has been found to cause increased blood clotting, which can lead to serious health consequences.
Researchers also conducted another study, which was based on the observation of changes in the body of eight healthy volunteers caused by taking a dose of sweetener. Participants drank a drink containing 30 grams of erythritol. Over the next three days, blood samples were taken from them and analyzed. “30 grams was enough to raise blood erythritol levels 1,000-fold,” Hazen told CNN. He added that the level of the chemical compound remained at a level that increases the risk of blood clots for the next 2-3 days after its consumption.
“I think enough data has been collected that people who are already at increased risk of heart attack and stroke, such as people with heart disease or diabetes, should stay away from erythritol until more research is done,” Dr. Hazen. “I don’t normally sound the alarm, but I think it’s something we need to look at closely.”
Sweetener instead of sugar
Currently, there is no limit to the daily intake of erythritol/erythritol. There are no guidelines from the European Food Safety Authority or the US Food and Drug Administration in this regard. The sweetener itself is described as safe for health. As the authors of the study emphasize, their research does not yet determine that the sweetener is harmful. In their work, as they emphasize, they only proved the relationship between the analyzed factors, not the cause-and-effect relationship. ‘The scientific community needs to investigate erythritol more thoroughly, and quickly, because it is already widely available. If it’s harmful, we should know about it, says Dr. Andrew Freeman of the National Jewish Health Hospital in Denver, who is not associated with the study.
Asked for comment by CNN, the Calorie Control Council, which represents the low and reduced calorie food and beverage industry, replied that “the results of this study run counter to decades of scientific research showing that reduced calorie sweeteners such as erythritol, are safe, as confirmed by global regulations regarding their use in food and beverages.(His results – ed.) should not be extrapolated to the general population, as its participants were already at increased risk of cardiovascular events.”
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