Common type of artificial sweetener linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke

Young woman pours packet of artificial sweetener into a cup of coffee.

Researchers are reporting that erythritol, a common type of artificial sweetener, is linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.   

Artificial sweeteners have been increasing in popularity over the years, particularly among people who have obesity or diabetes. They are widely used in soft drinks, processed foods, and other products. However, little is known about their long-term effect on cardiovascular health. 

The researchers studied over 4,000 people in the United States and Europe and found those with higher blood erythritol levels were at elevated risk of experiencing an adverse cardiovascular event such as heart attack, stroke, or death.  The scientists also conducted lab studies showing that adding erythritol to platelets, which are blood fragments, contributes to heightened blood clot formation.   

The study adds to concern about the long-term safety of artificial sweeteners. The researchers noted that more studies are needed and that consumers should talk to their doctor or nutritionist for personalized recommendations about their food choices.  

The study, funded in part by NHLBI, appeared in the journal Nature Medicine.