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The Trouble with Erythritol

The Trouble with Erythritol

This article is a 1:30-minute read and uses 10 sources 

This week you may have seen an NYT article or spinoff of it headlined, “Study Suggests Possible Link Between Sugar Substitute and Heart Issues. Experts Say, Don’t Panic.” A Women’s Health headline about the same fake sugar from March 2018 reads, “Everyone On the Keto Diet Is Obsessed with This Sugar Replacement. But Like… Is It Even Safe?” 

Erythritol. Safe or Not Safe? Another compound I can’t spell from memory or pronounce buried in a pile of tiny print ingredients on food labels. What is it? Not sugar. Erythritol is an alcohol-based sugar compound made out of high fructose corn syrup. Like all HFCS and corn by-products, erythritol is manufactured using GMO corn making it in the words of Dr. Axe of Ancient Nutrition, “an invisible GMO ingredient”. Erythritol products are labeled “0 Calorie” or “Zero Sugar”. For example, Splenda’s Stevia Sweetener is erythritol with a dash of stevia extract for flavor. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol which means it is zero-calorie but it’s digested like alcohol. Alcohol weight gain is because alcohol doesn’t get metabolized into usable calories. Alcohol basically blocks the body from accessing usable food caloric energy, and that’s also what erythritol does. The recent study that NYT was responding to showed that the amount of erythritol consumed in a can of artificially sweetened beverage stayed in the bloodstream for more than two days.

More significantly, the study at hand linked erythritol to blood clotting, hypertension, strokes, and heart failure. The NYT article circulating at the moment leans heavily on “more research is needed.” Stat News is a science journalism site, often geared towards medical professionals. Their take on the same study is: “Some outside researchers praised the paper for not only establishing that there might be a risk, but also explaining how it might be that a sugar alcohol could cause that risk. “What these investigators have done is go a very long way in helping us infer cause and effect from the issues they found in the initial fishing expectation,” said David Juurlink, a drug safety expert at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. “They’ve pushed a lot of buttons.” The paper, he said, is only a first step. “Obviously it warrants replication,” Juurlink said. “If it was me I would think twice in terms of consuming erythritol.”

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