Erythritol is a zero-calorie sweetener that has been linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. A study published in the journal Nature Medicine found that people with existing risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, were twice as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke if they had the highest levels of erythritol in their blood.
Let’s take a closer look at erythritol, the potential health risks associated with consuming it, and how to limit your exposure to it.
What is erythritol?
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is used as a zero-calorie sweetener. It is made by fermenting glucose with yeast and then adding enzymes to break down the glucose into Erythritol. Erythritol is approximately 70% as sweet as table sugar, has a clean and sweet taste, and is commonly used in sugar-free and low-calorie products.
Health risks associated with consuming erythritol
The study from Nature Medicine found that people who had the highest levels of erythritol in their blood were twice as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke compared to those who had lower levels of erythritol in their blood. This suggests that there may be an increased risk for people who consume high amounts of processed foods or beverages containing this sugar alcohol.
In the final part of the study, 8 healthy people drank a beverage with 30 grams of erythritol, which is the amount commonly consumed in the US according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Their blood was tested over the next 3 days to see if erythritol affected their risk of blood clots.
The study found that the amount the volunteers consumed was enough to increase their erythritol levels by a thousandfold, which remained high enough to increase clotting risk for 2 to 3 days. This amount is similar to what’s in a pint of keto ice cream, which often uses erythritol as a sweetener.
There is no official limit on how much erythritol is safe to consume. Some experts are concerned and say that more research is needed to understand the effects of erythritol on health.
Other research has also suggested that consuming large amounts of erythritol can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, nausea and diarrhea.
How to limit your exposure to erythritol
To reduce your risk of experiencing any potential health risks associated with consuming high levels of erythritol, it’s important to limit your consumption of processed foods and beverages containing this sugar alcohol. Be sure to read nutrition labels carefully when selecting packaged food items or drinks so you know exactly what ingredients are included in them.
Additionally, you should opt for natural alternatives such as honey or maple syrup instead of artificial sweeteners like Splenda or Equal which contain traces of this sugar alcohol. Finally, if you do find yourself consuming large amounts of processed food items containing this sugar alcohol on occasion, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to help flush out any excess from your system.
Alternatives to erythritol and their unique benefits
Fortunately, there are many natural sweeteners that you can use as an alternative to erythritol. Here are a few options and their unique benefits:
- Stevia: Stevia is a plant-based sweetener that has zero calories and is much sweeter than sugar. It has a glycemic index of zero, which means it won’t raise your blood sugar levels.
- Xylitol: Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol that has 40% fewer calories than sugar. It’s also been shown to have dental benefits, as it can reduce the risk of tooth decay.
- Coconut sugar: Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut palms and has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar. It also contains small amounts of nutrients like iron, zinc, and calcium.
- Maple syrup: Maple syrup is a natural sweetener that contains antioxidants and minerals like manganese and zinc. It has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar and can add a rich, complex flavor to baked goods and other recipes.
How to know if your food has traces of erythritol in it
If you’re unsure whether a particular food or drink contains erythritol, the best way to find out is to read the label. Erythritol is often listed as an ingredient on food labels, and it may also be listed as a bulking agent or a sugar alcohol.
Keep in mind that some products may contain erythritol but not list it as an ingredient, so it’s always a good idea to do your research and choose products from reputable companies.
Tips on how to make informed decisions when it comes to choosing sweeteners
When it comes to choosing sweeteners, it’s important to be informed and make educated decisions. Here are a few tips to help you make the best choices:
- Read labels carefully: Take the time to read food labels and look for added sugars and artificial sweeteners like erythritol.
- Choose whole foods: Whenever possible, choose whole, unprocessed foods and natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and stevia.
- Don’t overdo it: Even natural sweeteners should be consumed in moderation to avoid health problems.
- Do your research: If you’re unsure about a particular sweetener or product, do your research and choose products from reputable companies.
Monitor your sweetener intake
Watch out for erythritol and make informed decisions about what you eat. If you’re concerned about your sugar intake and dietary habits and want to ensure that you’re making healthy choices, book an appointment at Nao Medical for nutrition counseling. Our team can help you navigate the world of food and supplements, and provide tailored advice to meet your specific dietary goals.