Should You Stop Eating Popular Sugar Substitute, Erythritol?

A newly published study reports that the artificial sweetener may be linked to cardiovascular health risks.

March 02, 2023

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Photo by: Sherry Epley/Getty Images

Sherry Epley/Getty Images

A new study published in journal Nature Medicine is reporting that diets high in the popular sugar substitute, erythritol may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Blood samples from thousands of subjects with existing heart disease risk factors were analyzed. Those with higher levels of erythritol in the blood were more likely to have increased blood clot formation that could increase risk of adverse cardiovascular events.

A 30-gram dose of erythritol (comparable to what is found in many beverages, baked goods and low-calorie ice creams) elevated levels in the blood to a potentially concerning level for cardiovascular health. These levels remained high for hours and even days after consumption.

This study did not determine that erythritol consumption causes cardiovascular disease, but it suggests there may be a relationship in how it can impact cardiovascular health, especially if other risk factors exist.

So should you skip this sugar substitute entirely? Here’s what you should know.

What Is Erythritol?

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, zero-calorie, sweet tasting substance that looks similar to granulated sugar. It designated as a food additive that is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Sugar alcohols are often used to replace some or all of the added sugars in food products in efforts to reduce the calories and prevent insulin responses, making these types of foods popular for those suffering from diabetes or interested in weight loss.

Erythritol has only been used in food manufacturing since 1990 and it is particularly appealing since it doesn’t elicit the same bitter aftertaste found in some other artificial sweetening products. It also seems to cause less stomach upset than other sugar alcohols like xylitol. The rise in popularity of low-carb and keto style diets has also led to increased demand for erythritol, which is now sold by the bag full in stores and online.

Bottom Line: While the results of this study are not definitive and a large body of evidence has determined sugar substitutes to be safe, those with heart disease may benefit from taking inventory of the amount of erythritol and other artificial sweeteners they consume each day.

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