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New Research Raises Concerns About the Safety of Xylitol, a Popular Sugar Substitute

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For this one, however, there is new research on the safety of the sugar substitute xylitol, which is argued to be one of the common low-calorie food sweeteners. By publishing the work in the European Heart Journal, it has drawn concerns about the risks of xylitol. New research brought to light and directed by the Cleveland Clinic states that rather than reducing these risks, xylitol poses a higher risk of experiencing a stroke, heart attack, or cardiovascular-related fatality.

Artificial sugar alcohol, Xylitol is found naturally in a minute quantity in fruits, vegetables, and a large number of manufactured items, such as sugar-free gum, candies, baked goods, toothpaste, and foods geared toward the labels “keto-friendly.” It is up to 40% lower in calories than table sugar. Further, the human body produces xylitol.

Last year, the Cleveland Clinic research team raised similar alarms about another popular sugar replacement, erythritol, other than its ability to up the rate of heart-related issues.

Senior author of the study, Dr. Stanley Hazen, expressed concern at how widely used these sugar substitutes were and how a major population at high risk of fallouts from heart attacks and strokes, like diabetes patients, was consuming them. “We’re throwing this stuff into our food pyramid, and the very people who are most likely to be consuming it are the ones who are most likely to be at risk,” he stated.

One landmark study measured blood levels of naturally occurring xylitol in more than 3,000 fasting people. It showed every possibility that those in the highest quartile of xylitol levels had nearly twice the risk of heart attack, stroke, or death in three years than those in the low quartile.

To test this pathway, xylitol was given to mice, along with whole blood and plasma in a laboratory, and researchers offered ten human volunteers a drink with xylitol. Xylitol, in this way, was shown to be a stimulator of blood platelets, an important attribute in the formation of clots, which leads to heart attacks and stroke in our body.

Dr. Hazen explained, “All it takes is xylitol to interact with platelets alone for a very brief period of time, a matter of minutes, and the platelet becomes supercharged and much more prone to clot.”

The researchers say they are concerned, but in the meantime, establish protocols for future studies so we have a greater idea of the health risks of these ingredients. At present the researchers say to avoid both xylitol and the other sugar alcohols whose names end in ‘itol’ and sweeten foods and drinks with just a bit of sugar, honey, or fruit, but would not necessarily worry about toothpaste or just one piece of gum, given the tiny amount of xylitol being ingested.

Obviously, the study was weak since the true activity of xylitol in the blood of participants was an observation and could only point to a correlation between the sugar alcohol and heart risk, not a direct causal relationship.

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