Too much sugar is bad for you, of course, but the natural substitute many have been eating as an alternative might be damaging, too.
A study from the Cleveland Clinic published in Nature Medicine found that—at least among 4,000 people undergoing cardiac elevation—the organic compound erythritol, used as an artificial sweetener, increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes and could also be linked to the formation of blood clots. It's an ingredient in the branded sweetener Truvia.
The blood clots were found in preclinical studies and the researchers said more study is needed to figure out if this translated to danger for the general public. Still, it's one more signal that, generally, artificial sweeteners may not be good for you.
Related: Ultra-Processed Foods Could Be Killing You
As The Washington Post reports, "Often pitched as a weight-loss shortcut that offers the sweet taste of high-sugar foods without the health consequences, such sweeteners have been linked to higher calorie consumption and higher blood sugar levels. One 2019 study suggested that drinking artificially sweetened soft drinks was associated with increased deaths from circulatory disease."
Why are they still sold, then? Because even with these studies, the industry consensus is that there still hasn't been enough conclusive proof that they are deadly—at least not enough to outlaw them.
In the case of erythritol, the risk might be more hidden because it's used in products like keto cookies and granola and is promoted as a "natural" sweetener even when it's being used in processed foods. And that's true: Erythritol is an organic compound that can be made with enzymes and fermentation and that occurs in small levels in foods like grapes, wine, and cheese.
But the researchers of the study say until more studies are done on the potential link, it might be best to avoid it altogether. What if you just drank your coffee with no sweetener at all?
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