A new study has found that a calorie-free sweetener popular in ketogenic diets has been linked to strokes, heart attacks, blood clots and death.
The artificial sweetener called erythritol is often found in diet foods, such as Truvia, as a replacement for sugar because it doesn’t affect blood sugar and is calorie-free.
The new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine, found that higher levels of erythritol are correlated with higher risks of heart attack, stroke or death within three years when analyzed in blood samples from three different populations.
Researchers first found the correlation between increased erythritol levels and major adverse cardiac events when analyzing chemicals and compounds in 1,157 blood samples from people at risk for heart disease who had were collected between 2004 and 2011. After finding the link between high levels and increased risk, the researchers confirmed their findings by testing a larger sample of 2,100 people in the United States and 833 samples in Europe through 2018.
“After exposure to dietary erythritol, a prolonged period of potentially increased thrombotic risk may occur. This is of concern given that the very patients for whom artificial sweeteners are marketed (patients with diabetes, history of obesity (cardiovascular disease) and kidney failure) are generally those at higher risk for future events (cardiovascular disease),” the study read. .
The study also found that when a group of eight healthy volunteers drank a drink containing 30 grams of erythritol, the chances of blood clotting were “increased”.
Stanley Hazen, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention at the Cleveland Clinic The Lerner Research Institute, and the study’s principal investigator, told CNN that “the degree of risk was not modest.”
“If your erythritol blood level was in the upper 25% versus the lower 25%, your risk of heart attack and stroke was about twice as high. That’s on par with the strongest of heart risk factors, like diabetes,” Hazen said.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks and strokes, caused 874,613 deaths in the United States in 2019.