If you consume low-sugar, low-cal products, you've definitely encountered the "Ferrari" of sweeteners - erythritol. 6% of the calories of sugar, but 70% of the sweetness.
It's pretty much everywhere (although you won't find it on our labels!).
According to the FDA, erythritol is "generally recognized as safe" (meaning no long-term safety studies on its effects are required for its use). Yet this past Wednesday, a study dropped that linked it to an increased risk of heart attack, blood clotting, and stroke.
Scientists at the Cleveland Clinic were searching for heart attack "warning signs." They examined 1,157 patients and found those with the highest levels of erythritol in their blood had twice the risk of experiencing a major cardiovascular event in the next three years.
However, the study carries some MAJOR caveats...
- Only folks with especially high levels (i.e., those consuming lots of erythritol) had higher risk. Those with moderate and low levels saw no difference in risk.
- Correlation is not causation. Some folks in the scientific community have criticized the results, pointing to facts like the highest-risk group also being the oldest.
- Humans produce erythritol naturally in the body; it's unclear what proportions of erythritol blood levels were from consumption versus metabolic processes.
While more investigation is certainly warranted, this was a thought-provoking study that has sent shockwaves throughout the nutrition community all week.