Food Safety

New Study Raises Concerns About Sugar Substitute Safety

Main image to the post New Study Raises Concerns About Sugar Substitute Safety

A Closer Look

The safety of sugar substitutes, particularly xylitol, is under scrutiny once again. A recent study published in the European Heart Journal linked xylitol consumption to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular-related deaths.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol naturally found in small amounts in fruits and vegetables. It also occurs naturally in the human body. As a food additive, it offers the sweetness of sugar with 40% fewer calories. However, it is often used in much higher concentrations than found in nature, particularly in sugar-free gum, candies, toothpaste, and baked goods. It is also a common ingredient in "keto-friendly" products, especially in Europe.

This latest study follows a similar finding from the same research team last year, which linked the popular sugar substitute erythritol to similar cardiovascular risks. The increasing use of sugar substitutes over the past decade, driven by concerns about rising obesity rates, has raised concerns about their long-term health effects.

Dr. Stanley Hazen, lead author of the study and chair of cardiovascular and metabolic sciences at Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute, emphasizes the potential risks for individuals most likely to consume these substitutes, such as those with diabetes. He highlights the need for further research, particularly on the mechanisms by which xylitol might increase cardiovascular risk.

The study found that individuals with the highest levels of naturally occurring xylitol in their blood had double the risk of heart attack, stroke, or death over the next three years compared to those with the lowest levels. Further investigations revealed that xylitol activates platelets, the blood components responsible for clotting, potentially leading to the formation of blood clots, a major cause of heart attacks and strokes.

While the study provides evidence for an association between xylitol and cardiovascular risk, it is important to note that it was observational and cannot definitively prove causation. However, the findings, combined with previous research on erythritol, suggest that limiting intake of artificial sweeteners might be prudent.

Experts recommend prioritizing natural sugars like those found in fruits and vegetables over artificial sweeteners. While sugar substitutes can be a tool for some individuals struggling to reduce sugar intake, personal choice and moderation are crucial.

It is important to remember that this study focused on individuals at high risk for or with existing heart disease. Further research is needed to determine whether the findings apply to healthy individuals. However, the study highlights the potential risks associated with xylitol consumption, particularly for individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09