Artificial sweetener linked to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, Cleveland Clinic says

Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic researchers found erythritol, a popular artificial sweetener, is associated with increased risk of heart attack, stroke and clotting.

The study, published Feb. 27 in Nature Medicine, followed more than 4,000 people in the U.S. and Europe. Researchers found those with higher blood erythritol levels had increased risk of major adverse cardiac events such as heart attack, stroke and death. The pre-clinical study also found erythritol heightened blood clot formation.

"Our study shows that when participants consumed an artificially sweetened beverage with an amount of erythritol found in many processed foods, markedly elevated levels in the blood are observed for days – levels well above those observed to enhance clotting risks," senior author Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, chairman for the Department of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Sciences in Lerner Research Institute and co-section head of Preventive Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic, said in the release. "It is important that further safety studies are conducted to examine the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners in general, and erythritol specifically, on risks for heart attack and stroke, particularly in people at higher risk for cardiovascular disease."

Erythritol is produced by fermenting corn. It is poorly metabolized by the body after ingestion and ends up in the bloodstream before leaving the body through urine. The human body produces low amounts of erythritol naturally, so additional consumption can accumulate, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

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