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Editors note: Previously aired video shows Dr. Marc on artificial sweeteners’ impact on the heart

CLEVELAND (WJW) — A new Cleveland Clinic study shows that a popular artificial sweetener, erythritol, is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. 

The findings published in “Nature Medicine” on Monday cover a study of over 4,000 people in the U.S. and Europe showing those with higher blood erythritol levels were at an elevated risk of having a heart attack, stroke or even death, according to a press release from Cleveland Clinic.

“Sweeteners like erythritol, have rapidly increased in popularity in recent years but there needs to be more in-depth research into their long-term effects,” said senior author Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., chairman for the Department of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Sciences in Lerner Research Institute and co-section head of Preventive Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic. “Cardiovascular disease builds over time, and heart disease is the leading cause of death globally. We need to make sure the foods we eat aren’t hidden contributors.”

Results also show that erythritol made blood platelets easier to activate and form a clot, confirming pre-clinical studies that show ingestion of erythritol heightened clot formation, the release says.

“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,” Dr. Hazen said.

Artificial sweeteners, including erythritol, are common replacements for table sugar in low-calorie, low-carbohydrate and “keto” products.

The Cleveland Clinic says that while sugar-free products containing erythritol are often pushed for people who have obesity, diabetes or metabolic syndrome, anyone with these conditions also are at higher risk for adverse cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.

About 70% as sweet as sugar and produced through fermenting corn, erythritol is poorly metabolized by the body but instead goes into the bloodstream and leaves the body mainly through urine, according to the release.

It’s not required for erythritol to undergo long-term safety studies because the FDA considers it “Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).”

“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,” Dr. Hazen said.

It’s recommend that you talk to your doctor or a certified dietician to learn more about healthy food choices and for personalized recommendations.