Too Sweet To Be True: is Erythritol bad for you?

The world of sugar substitutes is a place of confusion and conflicting opinions. Are they good or bad for us? Just when you thought you had finally made your mind up, something new pops up to add to the confusion. 

This time that ‘something new’ is a study that was recently published by Nature Medicine on the popular zero-calorie sugar substitute erythritol. The study reported links between erythritol and increased risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes.

To conduct the study, researchers measured the levels of erythritol in the blood of around 4,000 people. Researchers found that test subjects with higher levels of erythritol in their bloodstream were at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke. To support the study, researchers examined the effects of erythritol on mice and found that the sugar replacement promoted the formation of blood clots in mice. Erythritol appeared to have a similar impact on human blood. Furthermore, after consumption erythritol appeared to linger in the test subjects’ blood for two days.

Despite its very synthetic-sounding name, erythritol is a sugar alcohol found in berries and certain vegetables, and is also produced naturally by the body. Commercially, erythritol is produced through fermentation as it is naturally occurring. Since erythritol has zero calories it is the perfect sugar substitute, allowing product developers to mask the aftertaste of strong flavors without the added calories. The zero-calorie sugar substitute is also easily digested by the body and it is proven to have oral benefits.

Once again, the information on erythritol is confusing and contradicting. Is erythritol suitable as a sugar substitute or not? An article published by the New York Times says that the validity of the above-mentioned study should be taken into account. Participants in the study were predominantly over the age of 60, and already at high risk for cardiovascular diseases, or already had conditions such as diabetes and/or hypertension. Therefore, the test sample was extremely skewed, and not necessarily indicative of dietary erythritol intake.

The overall health of the participants before the study would likely skew the data captured during the study drastically. The long-term effects of artificial sweeteners on the human body are difficult to monitor. This is because multiple factors influence the health of an individual. Factors such as lifestyle choices, wellness, and diet aside from the artificial sugars they are consuming would affect the data gathered from a participant.

There is still a healthy debate about the health of sugar substitutes, both artificial ones, and natural ones like stevia and erythritol. There is zero debate about the negative impact of sugar on your health, and that it should be avoided as much as possible.

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