A new study links sugar substitutes to heart disease
Erythritol is a sugar substitute found in many low-calorie and diet-friendly foods and drinks. But new research suggests the compound may have an unexpected link to heart disease.
The study was published last week in Nature Medicine.
The study findings suggest a significant association between erythritol and an increased risk for heart attack, stroke and death. And they indicate that eating or drinking erythritol may directly raise the risk for blood clots for days after consuming that product.
While that link isn't conclusive, experts say worth keeping an eye on how much erythritol — and other sugar substitutes — you consume on a regular basis.
What is erythritol?
Erythritol is what's known as a reducing sugar or sugar alcohol, Dr. Stanley Hazen, chairman for the department of cardiovascular and metabolic sciences in the Lerner Research Institute and co-section head of preventive cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, tells TODAY.com
“It tastes very similar to sugar, but we don’t derive calories from it,” he explains.
Sugar alcohols, including erythritol, and other artificial sweeteners “have actually been fairly well studied because we’ve seen such an increasing use of them in the food supply,” Whitney Linsenmeyer, Ph.D., R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and assistant professor at Saint Louis University, tells TODAY.com.
That long-term research has been mixed overall, but the Food and Drug Administration considers sugar alcohols “perfectly safe for human consumption,” she says.
It's a particularly popular sugar substitute because it behaves a lot like sugar in cooking or baking, Hazen says, and it can be used as a "bulking sugar" in products alongside other sweeteners — like stevia, monk fruit and other sugar alcohols — to make them taste a bit better.