Artificial Sweetener Linked to Increased Heart Attack Risk

Cup of coffee espresso

The degree of risk was “not modest.”

If you’re already at an increased risk of heart attack or stroke, you may want to rethink that keto bar.

Erythritol, a natural sugar substitute used to bulk out stevia, monk fruit, and reduced-sugar products, has been linked to blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, and even death. Those already at risk are twice as likely to suffer ill effects, according to a new study published in Nature Medicine.

The results of lab and animal research laid out in the paper indicated that erythritol was making blood platelets clot more readily. These clots have the potential to detach and travel to the brain or heart, causing a stroke or heart attack.

“The degree of risk was not modest,” the study’s lead author Dr. Stanley Hazen, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention at the Cleveland ClinicLerner Research Institute, said per CNN.

Hazen added that if the level of erythritol in your blood is in the top 25 percent, you are at double the risk for heart attack and stroke compared to those whose blood level is in the bottom 25 percent. “It’s on par with the strongest of cardiac risk factors, like diabetes,” she said.

According to CNN, researchers have said that while more research is still needed to follow up on these results, it may be wise to limit your intake of sweeteners containing erythritol in the meantime.

An unknown entity

“Although they are generally considered safe by regulatory agencies (for example, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Union), little is known about the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners,” the study notes.

“Patients with metabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity, are frequently advised that the use of artificial sweeteners in place of sugar can improve glycemic control and help achieve weight loss. However, there is growing epidemiological evidence linking the consumption of artificial sweeteners to adverse cardiometabolic phenotypes, such as weight gain, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD), including atherothrombotic complications and cardiovascular mortality.”

As more and more people around the world have become interested in losing weight, artificial sweeteners have become an increasingly common ingredient in drinks and snack products – particularly in “low carb” or “keto” foods. To make matters more complicated, it can be often tricky to distinguish exactly which sweetener you’re consuming, as erythritol is often combined with sugar substitutes like stevia, which enjoy more of a health halo.

If you’re worried about your consumption of artificial sweeteners and sugar, read our breakdown of whether artificial sweeteners are bad for you.