Popular sweetener could increase heart attack and stroke risk

Dr Salim Yusuf on how to improve your cardiovascular health

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Touted as a good substitute for sugar in low-calorie, low-carb and keto diet products, the ingredient is now under investigation. When scientists added the sweetener erythritol to blood platelets (cell fragments that clump together to stop bleeding), the platelets clotted faster. Dr Stanley Hazen, Department of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Sciences in Lerner Research Institute, commented on the findings.

“Sweeteners, like erythritol, have rapidly increased in popularity in recent years,” said Dr Hazen.

“But there needs to be more in-depth research into their long-term effects.”

Dr Hazen added: “We need to make sure the foods we eat aren’t hidden contributors [to health risks].”

The research study shows that an artificially sweetened beverage containing as much erythritol found in processed foods stays in the blood “for days”.

Dr Hazen added: “Cardiovascular disease builds over time, and heart disease is the leading cause of death globally.”

Blood clot risk

The American Heart Association (AHA) said: “Many factors can lead to excessive blood clotting.

“Blood clots can travel to the arteries or veins in the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and limbs, which in turn can cause heart attack, stroke, damage to the body’s organs or even death.”

Acquired risk factors for excessive blood clotting include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolonged bed rest
  • Long periods of sitting
  • Use of birth control pills
  • Use of hormone replacement therapy
  • Cancer.

The AHA added: “Many diseases and conditions can cause excessive blood clotting.”

Conditions that could trigger excessive blood clotting in the heart and brain include:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Vasculitis
  • Diabetes
  • Heart failure
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Metabolic syndrome.

Atherosclerosis is when plaque builds up inside the arteries, which embeds along the artery walls, and is at risk of rupturing, leading to a blood clot.

Vasculitis causes the blood vessels to become inflamed, whereby platelets may stick to the damaged areas to form blood clots.

If heart failure is present, blood flow slows, which can cause clots to form.

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that increases your risk of heart disease and blood clot formation.

The best way to minimise your risk of excessive blood clot formation is to lead a healthy lifestyle.

The authors added follow-up studies must be completed to confirm their findings published in Nature Medicine in the general public.

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