It has long been known that sweeteners are, to put it mildly, not the healthiest foods, and their consumption is best avoided. Scientists suspected that they contribute to weight gain and the development of diabetes. Some researchers have blamed sweeteners for cancer risk. The new work suggests that one of the most popular sweeteners can be extremely hazardous to health, as it increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke, which in turn can lead to death. We are talking about erythritol, which is very common in products with low or no sugar and carbohydrates.
What is the harm from the sweetener erythritol
Scientists from the Lerner Institute at the Cleveland Clinic decided to look for signs that could determine the likelihood of heart attack and stroke in patients. To do this, they examined the blood of more than 1150 people who examined the cardiovascular system in the clinic.
In the blood of some patients, scientists have found organic compounds that are used as a sweetener in the food industry. Moreover, patients who had high levels of this sweetener, that is, erythritol, had the highest risks of dying in the next three years from a heart attack or stroke.
Having found such a relationship, the scientists expanded the study. In total, it received almost 3,000 people from the US and Denmark. At the same time, all people who had an increased content of erythritol in the blood had a high risk of death due to the cardiovascular system.
However, it should be borne in mind that the study did not show where exactly the erythritol came into the body – from foods with a sweetener or in any other way. In addition, it was not clear how this sweetener causes problems with the cardiovascular system.
How does a sweetener affect the body?
The findings prompted scientists to study how erythritol affects the cardiovascular system. To do this, they used blood samples from eight completely healthy people. After the volunteers drank a drink sweetened with erythritol, the level of this substance in their blood reached a peak and remained high for several days, after which it began to gradually decrease. The researchers report this in their paper, published in a publication in the journal Nature Medicine.
Adding this substance to blood samples increased its stickiness, as well as other indicators responsible for blood clotting. Similar results have been shown in animal studies. According to scientists, the results suggest that the consumption of large doses of artificial sweeteners can lead to a cascade of changes in the blood. Ultimately, this leads to a high risk of death.
However, the results of this study do not exclude that erythritol may enter the bloodstream from other sources. It is even possible that the source is inside our body. For example, it is a substance that can be obtained from other sugars, especially in people who eat a lot and move little.
Needless to say, these results are consistent with those of many other studies. For example, last year a large-scale study was conducted in France, in which 100,000 people took part. True, scientists investigated the effect on the body not of erythritol, but of sweeteners in general. The results showed that high consumption of artificial sweeteners increased the risk of heart disease, as reported in an article published in The BMJ.
Earlier we also reported that the WHO has found a link between the consumption of sugary drinks and premature death. According to experts, the current study expands the data of previous studies. However, they all suggest that the health effects of sweeteners need to be studied more carefully. In particular, it is necessary to establish what doses can be considered safe.
However, it is already clear that, if possible, the consumption of sweet products without sugar should be abandoned. True, this is not so easy to do. Individual artificial sweeteners are often not reported in product formulations at this time. They are most often found in drinks.
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According to experts, sweeteners are present in small amounts in vegetables and fruits. However, they can be up to 1,000 times higher in processed foods, especially erythritol. But do not forget that the poison can also be found in natural products, which we talked about earlier. Therefore, the choice of foods that you eat should be carefully considered.