Popular Sugar Alternatives Linked To Major Health Issues

Three separate studies show a correlation between consuming the sugar alternative erythritol and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

By Kristi Eckert | Updated

sugar alternatives

Sugar alternatives, like Splenda and Truvia, have racked up a questionable rap sheet in recent years. Reports have surfaced connecting these artificial sweeteners to diseases like cancer. Now, evidence is emerging that suggests a particular component in sugar alternatives can increase one’s risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. 

Scientists have gathered information that indicates erythritol, the ingredient responsible for making sugar alternatives taste like real sugar, is the catalyst that has the potential to increase someone’s risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Researchers conducted three studies between 2004 and 2018 that allowed them to identify the theorized correlation. Consumer Affairs detailed the specific parameters and outcomes of each study. 

The first study followed 1,100 participants between 2004 and 2011. In this study, the participants that were chosen were already at an increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Those participating were split up into two groups — a control group and a test group. 

The control group was instructed to omit sugar alternatives containing erythritol from their diets, and the test group was instructed to include sugar alternatives containing erythritol in their diets. Over the course of the study, the researchers determined that the group who consumed the artificial sweeteners with erythritol developed an even greater risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke within two to three years.

Two subsequent studies were also performed in 2018 that examined a wider breadth of participants from both Europe and the United States. Identical conclusions to the first study were drawn from the two more recent studies — that the erythritol found in sugar alternatives leads to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. 

What’s more, is that the researchers conducting the study found the aforementioned finding to be true even in participants who had a low risk of having a heart attack or stroke at the start of the study. Scientists determined that the reason the erythritol in sugar alternatives is such a major catalyst in driving the risk of heart attack or stroke higher is that it simultaneously increases the risk of blood clots, the primary causes of both ailments. 

The correlations identified in the three sugar alternative studies are concerning for a myriad of reasons. First, rates of heart attack and stroke in the United States are already exceedingly high. This is largely due to a substantial body of individuals having a combination of poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. However, considering that sugar alternatives are typically marketed as healthy choices, individuals trying to improve their overall health by consuming them could unwittingly be doing themselves more harm than good. 

Additionally, a vast number of individuals may also be consuming sugar alternatives without even realizing it, simply due to the fact of the way in which many foods are marketed. Food items labeled as “fat-free” or “low calorie” likely contain sugar alternatives derived from erythritol. Therefore, it becomes up to the individual to check ingredient lists to determine if something contains a sugar alternative.

Ultimately, if nothing else, the alternative sugar studies serve to highlight potentially serious health risks that could arise when regularly consuming sugar alternatives. Optimistically speaking, arming consumers with information such as this can empower them to make more conscious decisions when it comes to their health