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Artificial Sweetener Linked to Dangerous Cardiac Events


Photo: Ena Marinkovic

By Lily Stuart

Source: Cleveland Clinic Newsroom, Nature Medicine Journal 

A recent study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic found that the organic compound erythritol is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. After studying over 4,000 people in the U.S. and Europe, researchers found those with higher blood erythritol levels were at an elevated risk of experiencing major adverse cardiac events, including heart attacks or strokes.

“Sweeteners like erythritol, have rapidly increased in popularity in recent years but there needs to be more in-depth research into their long-term effects,” said senior author Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., chairman for the Department of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Sciences in Lerner Research Institute and co-section head of Preventive Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic. “Cardiovascular disease builds over time, and heart disease is the leading cause of death globally. We need to make sure the foods we eat aren’t hidden contributors.”

Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D.

Research showcases the need for further safety studies

Erythritol is a common artificial sweetener used in many “low-calorie” or “sugar-free” products. Often recommended to patients with diabetes or metabolic syndrome, erythritol poses an extreme risk to those who use these products as options to help manage their sugar or caloric intake. People with these conditions are also already at a higher risk for adverse cardiovascular events.

The body has difficulty metabolizing erythritol after it is ingested. The human body only produces very slight amounts of erythritol naturally, meaning that any additional consumption can accumulate and become dangerous.

Further studies are being conducted to confirm findings within the general population and to account for other safety concerns.

Disclosures: Dr. Hazen is named as co-inventor on pending and issued patents held by Cleveland Clinic relating to cardiovascular diagnostics and therapeutics.