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Why one Detroit

Jun 11, 2023Jun 11, 2023

Frank McGeorge, MD, Local 4's Good Health Medical Expert

Bryce Tinson, WDIV Intern

Medical professionals in Michigan are raising awareness about artificial sweeteners as the risk of a heart attack or stroke has increased.

If you use an artificial sweetener in your diet, you might want to double-check that it does not contain erythritol, according to a new study in Nature Medicine. Erythritol can lead to a greater risk of heart attack or stroke.

"When I read this study and learned that the investigators noted that patients with higher levels of erythritol in their bloodstreams from consuming sugar substitutes had a greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke or of dying over three years, I was alarmed," said Dr. Herb Aronow, a Henry Ford Health cardiologist and the medical director of heart and vascular there.

It's a study with Aronow, an avid user of sweeteners containing erythritol, reevaluating his diet. "I read this study, I read it again, and that night I stopped putting sweeteners in my hot beverages that contain erythritol. That's how convinced I was."

Erythritol is a naturally occurring sweet substance known as a sugar alcohol and is present in low amounts in fruits and vegetables. When used as an artificial sweetener, the concentration is roughly 1,000 times higher than those natural levels.

It has gained popularity as a "natural," "zero-calorie" sweetener because it passes largely unused by the body, excreted in the urine. It has been considered a safe alternative to sugar, but after reading this study, Aronow has concerns.

"People who have higher levels of erythritol, their platelets, which are blood cells that cause blood clots, are stickier, and their blood is more likely to form clots."

The World Health Organization recently issued new guidelines warning against the use of artificial sweeteners, in general, for weight loss purposes. Research suggests their long-term use is linked to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

To avoid the health risks of artificial sweeteners, consider using real sugar in moderation or eliminating sugar from your diet altogether.

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