Potential Risks of Erythritol?

Potential Risks of Erythritol?

Over the years, erythritol has gained popularity as a sweetener and sugar substitute in various food and beverage products. It is widely used in the food industry and is considered as a safe alternative to sugar due to its low glycemic index and low calorie content. However, recent studies raise some possible concerns about erythritol’s potential negative effects on the heart. 

What Is Erythritol

Erythritol is a white crystalline powder that has a sweetness level similar to sugar but with almost zero calories. It occurs naturally in mushrooms and some fruits, such as grapes, melons, and pears, but is usually produced commercially by fermentation. Your body also produces it in small amounts as part of glucose metabolism. 

Many people use erythritol as a sugar substitute to help manage their weight and control their blood sugar levels. Research indicates that erythritol has the potential to be a favorable substitute for sugar in individuals with diabetes or those seeking a healthier option. This is because it does not affect glucose or insulin levels and can stimulate the secretion of gut hormones, which can regulate satiety and facilitate weight loss.

Erythritol is commonly used in low-calorie, sugar-free, keto-friendly, and diabetic-friendly food and beverage products. It is considered a “sugar alcohol”, which is not required to be listed individually on Nutrition Facts labels. The Food and Drug Administration also considers it as “generally recognized as safe”.

Erythritol May Be Harmful To Your Heart

A new study published in Nature raises concerns that erythritol consumption may be associated with increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Researchers found that in a group of people being assessed for cardiac risk, elevated blood erythritol levels were associated with higher risk of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) like stroke. Please note that this study only shows association, not causation.  In order to understand whether erythritol may be causing these effects, small studies were performed to explore the mechanism by which this increased risk may be occurring.  Preliminary analysis shows these elevated levels of erythritol may heighten platelet reactivity, which could potentially foster enhanced thrombosis. Erythritol is widely used in a range of processed foods and beverages, including diet sodas, sugar-free gum, and baked goods, so further research and a better understanding of the risk is needed.

Interestingly, when examining the relationship between erythritol consumption and levels of this sugar alcohol in the blood, they found that the levels of erythritol increased significantly (a thousand-fold) after consuming a drink containing 30 grams. It was observed that the erythritol levels stayed elevated for several days, and in at least two days, the levels grew high enough to be comparable to levels that could impact platelet function.  

Foods sweetened with erythritol can contain over 1,000 times higher levels than those found in nature.  So although erythritol is naturally occurring in plants, that does not necessarily mean it is completely safe.

Your Heart Health Is Directly Connected To Your Brain Health

The link between heart health and brain health is rooted in the fact that the brain relies on a steady supply of blood and oxygen to function properly. The heart pumps oxygenated blood to the brain through a network of blood vessels. When the heart is healthy, it can easily provide the brain with the nutrients and oxygen it needs. But when the heart is not functioning optimally, it can lead to a reduced blood flow to the brain, which can cause cognitive impairment and increase the risk of dementia. 

Moderation Is Key

While more research is necessary to understand potential links between erythritol and heart health, these findings have initiated a rising discussion regarding the safety and long-term effects of this popular sugar substitute. So, what should you do if you are concerned about the health risks associated with erythritol? These sugar substitutes are definitely better for your brain health than sugar!  But as with any food or ingredient, moderation is key. 

Erythritol is just one of many sugar substitutes available on the market. Stevia, for example, is a natural sugar substitute that has been found to have no adverse effects on our heart health. If you do choose to use erythritol as a sugar substitute, it is suggested to follow the recommended intake.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting our intake of added sugars, including erythritol, to no more than 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men. You can also consider using a variety of sugar substitutes to reduce your overall intake of added sugars.

Key Takeaway

Our society has dramatically increased our intake of sugar over previous generations and this increase has contributed to many health issues, including cognitive decline.  Although sugar substitutes like erythritol can serve as viable alternatives to sugar, they may carry possible risks as well, especially for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions. 

Taking care of your heart is crucial for maintaining cognitive function and preventing neurological disorders.  By adopting a healthy lifestyle and staying abreast of current studies regarding detrimental health factors, you can help ensure that your heart and brain are functioning at their best. 

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