One of the Most Popular Sugar Substitutes Might Cause More Harm Than Good
A New Study Links Sugar Substitute, Erythritol, to Cardiovascular Problems
Are you trying to lose weight by snacking on “low-carb” bars and food? Is your Ketosis state maintained by snacking on keto bars and keto snacks from Costco?
If yes, then pay attention to the following article.
A lot of these snacks and bars have sugar substitutes but a recent study indicated negative side effects of a particular kind of sugar alternative.
So, the snacks you are having to curb cravings or as a part of the keto diet could be harmful to you. Please read the label to check for the presence of Erythritol.
Erythritol is a sugar substitute that is often used as a low-calorie alternative to sugar. It occurs naturally in certain fruits and fermented foods and is also produced commercially by fermenting glucose. Erythritol is generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is widely used in foods and beverages.
However, a new study has linked Erythritol to blood clotting, stroke, heart attack, and even death. The same study also found from clinical trials that patients with existing risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes, were twice as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke if they had high levels of erythritol in their blood.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at sugar substitutes with a focus on Erythritol and discuss the known health benefits as well as its risks with regular human consumption, considering this recent study.
What are Sugar Substitutes?
Sugar substitutes have now become common food ingredients, widely used as healthier alternatives to sugar in many different types of food and beverages. These are added to thousands of “sugar-free,” “low-carb,” and “keto-friendly” processed or prepackaged foods and beverages. This is partly due to many people’s growing interest in healthier eating habits and the goal of reducing body weight, including reducing sugar intake and following low-carbohydrate diets like the keto diet.
Many consumers have been looking for alternatives to sugar that can help them reduce their calorie and carbohydrate intake without sacrificing taste. By using sugar substitutes, it’s believed that people can enjoy the taste of sweet foods and drinks without the negative health effects of sugar, such as weight gain, tooth decay, and increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. Yet very little is known about the long-term side effects or risk of diseases when these are made as part of one’s daily diet.
Sugar substitutes are said to reduce calorie intake which makes them a popular choice for people who are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. These are also believed to help manage blood sugar levels, which makes them a good option for people with diabetes. It is said that sugar substitutes help avoid the negative health effects of consuming regular sugar including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Sugar Substitutes that are commonly used:
- Stevia: Stevia is a natural, zero-calorie sweetener that is extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant.
- Erythritol: Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is about 60-70% as sweet as table sugar, but contains almost no calories.
- Xylitol: Xylitol is another sugar alcohol that is about as sweet as table sugar, but with about 40% fewer calories.
- Monk Fruit Extract: Monk fruit extract is a natural, zero-calorie sweetener that is derived from monk fruit. It is often used in beverages, desserts, and baked goods.
- Sucralose: Sucralose is a zero-calorie artificial sweetener that is about 600 times sweeter than table sugar. It is often used in diet beverages and other low-calorie products.
In this article, we’re going to focus on Erythritol, a sugar alcohol that is commonly used as an ingredient and sugar substitute in foods and beverages since it is about 60-70% as sweet as regular sugar but has almost no calories.
What is Erythritol?
Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a low-calorie sweetener. It occurs naturally in some fruits such as pears, melons, and grapes, but is usually produced commercially by fermenting glucose from cornstarch or wheat starch.
Erythritol is about 60-70% as sweet as table sugar. Still, it contains very low calories, making it a popular alternative sweetener for people who are trying to reduce their calorie intake, popular to those who are following a keto diet. It is also tooth-friendly, as it does not promote tooth decay as regular sugar does.
Erythritol is commonly used in sugar-free chewing gum, candy, and other confections, as well as in baked goods and beverages. It is also used as a bulking agent in some low-calorie food products.
Erythritol is a commonly used sugar substitute and has become increasingly popular as a low-calorie sweetener in recent years.
As it gains popularity, erythritol is also sold in bars and other food establishments in the United States. It is a popular sugar substitute and is often used as an ingredient in low-calorie and sugar-free food and beverage products, including those sold in bars and restaurants. Many bars and restaurants now offer low-calorie and sugar-free cocktail options that use erythritol or other sugar substitutes as a sweetener.
Erythritol is also widely available for purchase in grocery stores and health food stores, making it an easy ingredient to add to low-calorie and sugar-free food products as well as for people to use as a sugar substitute at home for their meals and drinks.
Erythritol and Keto Diet
Since erythritol contains almost zero calories, it also became commonly used in keto recipes and by people following a keto diet who are looking to lose excess weight. The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that is designed to put the body into a state of ketosis, where it burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Because the diet is low in carbohydrates, it is important to find substitutes for high-carbohydrate ingredients like sugar, where Erythritol comes into play.
Additionally, erythritol is a popular sugar substitute among people following the keto diet because it has a very low glycemic index and does not raise blood sugar levels like sugar does. Further, erythritol has almost no calories, making it a good option for people who are trying to lose weight on the keto diet. It is added to keto dessert recipes, such as low-carb cakes, cookies, and brownies. It’s also used as a sweetener in keto-friendly beverages like coffee and tea. Overall, erythritol is a popular sugar substitute among people following the keto diet or even anyone who’s looking to eat healthier by limiting their daily calorie intake, as it allows them to enjoy sweet-tasting foods and beverages without consuming high amounts of carbohydrates and experiencing the negative effects of sugar.
How is Erythritol used?
Here are some common uses of Erythritol.
- Sweetener: Erythritol is used as a low-calorie sweetener in a variety of products, including chewing gum, candy, beverages, and baked goods. It is about 60-70% as sweet as sugar but contains almost no calories.
- Bulking agent: Erythritol is often used as a bulking agent in some low-calorie food products. It helps to add volume and texture to foods without adding significant calories.
- Preservative: Erythritol has antimicrobial properties, which means that it can help to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi. It is sometimes used as a preservative in foods and beverages.
- Tooth-friendly sweetener: Erythritol is tooth-friendly, meaning that it does not promote tooth decay as regular sugar does. This makes it a popular sweetener for chewing gum and other products that are marketed as promoting good dental health.
What are the known possible Side Effects of consuming Erythritol regularly?
Like any food or beverage, erythritol can cause side effects in some people, particularly when consumed in high amounts. Some of the potential immediate side effects of continuous erythritol consumption include digestive issues, bloating, gas, diarrhea, headaches, and possible allergic reactions. In general, erythritol is well-tolerated by most people, and the side effects are usually mild and short-lived.
But, if you experience any severe or persistent side effects after consuming erythritol, or if you have any underlying health conditions, you should talk to your healthcare provider to determine if it is safe for you to continue using it or any other sugar substitute.
The Artificial Sweetener Erythritol and Cardiovascular Event Risks
A recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine on 27 February 2023 called into question and raised alarming concerns about the long-term safety risks of consuming this commonly used low-calorie sugar replacement called Erythritol. The study by Cleveland Clinic researchers has reported links between the presence of higher levels of erythritol in the blood and dramatically increased risk of major adverse cardiovascular events such as blood clotting, stroke, heart attack, and even death.
“In the study, Stanley Hazen, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, who led the research, did not set out to investigate sweeteners. Instead, blood samples were taken from 1157 patients undergoing cardiac risk assessments and then they were followed and tracked for three years, to seek a chemical signature that could predict the risk of heart attack or stroke. ‘If you treat existing risk factors like cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes, you lower cardiac risk, but the majority of events continue to happen,’ says Hazen.”
“Erythritol stood out as the best predictor of heart problems – even above high cholesterol levels. The researchers then measured erythritol levels in a US patient group and a European patient group who all had or were at risk of heart disease. Erythritol was at the top of the list of compounds that predicted cardiovascular risk. Compared to people who had the lowest blood levels of erythritol, individuals with high erythritol levels in these groups had double the risk of heart attack or stroke.”
Sugar Substitute Options for Food and Drinks
Erythritol is considered to be a safe and well-tolerated sugar substitute, and it has been approved for use in food and beverages by regulatory agencies around the world, including the FDA in the United States, and the EFSA in the European Union. It is also commonly used in low-calorie and sugar-free products marketed to people with diabetes, as it does not have a significant impact on blood sugar levels.
Erythritol is approved and said to be safe to add to foods and drinks. But taking the findings of this new study into account, one can’t help but start to take caution with adding Erythritol or other artificial sweeteners into their daily diet without doing more research not only on short-term but also the long-term possible side effects.
If you’re looking into limiting your intake of this sweetener considering the recent study that came out, reading product labels before purchasing is a good starting point. Additionally, there are other natural plant-based sweeteners to consider if you’re looking to add sweetness to your low-calorie meals and beverages, such as Stevia and Monk Fruit extract. These are also widely available in grocery stores and supermarkets and are quite easy to find.
Let’s look into our sugar substitute options if you’re looking to move towards healthier eating habits, want to lose weight, or just need to manage your blood sugar levels and want to stay away from refined sugar.
Sugar alcohols like Erythritol and Xylitol, and natural sweeteners like Stevia and Monk Fruit Extract are different in several ways:
- Source: Sugar alcohols are usually derived from natural sources like fruits, berries, and corn, while natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit extract come from specific plant species.
- Calorie Content: Sugar alcohols like erythritol contain some calories, usually about 0.2 to 3 calories per gram, while natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit extract have zero calories.
- Sweetness: Sugar alcohols are less sweet than sugar, with a sweetness level of about 60% to 70% of sugar, while natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit extract are much sweeter than sugar, with a sweetness level up to 300 times that of sugar.
- Glycemic Index: Sugar alcohols have a lower glycemic index than sugar, meaning they do not cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels after consumption. Natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit extract have zero glycemic indexes, meaning they do not affect blood sugar levels.
- Digestion: Sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed by the body and can cause digestive issues like bloating, gas, and diarrhea, especially when consumed in large amounts. Natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit extract are generally well-tolerated and do not cause digestive issues.
Therefore, sugar alcohols, such as erythritol and xylitol are lower in calories than sugar and do not cause rapid increases in blood sugar levels, making them a good option for people with diabetes or those watching their calorie intake. However, sugar alcohols may cause digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea when consumed in large amounts. Further, this recent study of links between high levels of erythritol in the blood to dramatically increased risks of major cardiovascular events has provided new information to take into account when choosing your sugar substitute.
On the other hand, plant-based sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit are derived from natural sources and do not raise blood sugar levels. They are also very low in calories and have a more natural taste than sugar alcohols. Stevia has been found to have some potential health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels, but more research is needed to confirm these benefits.
What is the Best Sugar Substitute to use?
Ultimately, the choice of sugar substitute will depend on individual needs and preferences. If you are looking for a low-calorie and low-glycemic sweetener that is less likely to cause digestive issues and you don’t have existing risk factors for heart disease, sugar alcohol may be a good choice.
If you prefer a more natural and calorie-free sweetener that does not cause digestive issues, plant-based sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit may be a good option. It is important to use all sweeteners in moderation and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any specific health concerns or conditions.
In general, erythritol is well-tolerated by most people, and the side effects are usually mild and short-lived. However, if you experience any severe or persistent side effects after consuming erythritol and a link has been raised about erythritol’s long-term heart health risks, you should talk to your healthcare provider to determine if it is safe for you to continue using it or possibly look into other alternatives to use as your sugar substitute. Additionally, if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications, it’s always best to talk to your healthcare provider before using erythritol or any other sugar substitute.
In summary, like any food or beverage, erythritol can be harmful to some people, particularly when consumed excessively. So the key is to consume it moderately. It is better to get sugar from natural foods such as fruits and veggies or perhaps go for natural purely plant-based sweetener substitutes depending on your diet preference. But if you sometimes crave sweet treats and want to add in more sugar alternatives, just ensure you don’t go beyond the recommended daily limit. Always read labels carefully!
When deciding on which “healthier” substitutes you should use in place of sugar in your daily diet, sugar alcohols like erythritol and natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit extract are alternative sweeteners. But take into consideration that they differ in their calorie content, sweetness level, glycemic index, and digestion. It is important to note that each sweetener has its advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, this recent study about the long-term health risks of taking high amounts of erythritol is a new point to consider in deciding the best sweetener choice for you, along with other factors like health goals, diet, taste preferences, tolerance levels, and any underlying health conditions.
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