Study finds Xylitol linked to higher risk of heart attack and stroke

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Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have discovered that high levels of xylitol, a common sugar substitute, are linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The study, led by Dr. Stanley Hazen, was published in the European Heart Journal.

Xylitol is often used in sugar-free products like candy, gum, baked goods, and toothpaste. As more people turn to sugar substitutes to manage conditions like obesity and diabetes, the use of xylitol and other sugar alcohols has grown significantly.

Dr. Hazen’s team previously found a similar link between another sugar alcohol, erythritol, and cardiovascular risk. While xylitol is not as widely used as erythritol in the U.S., it is common in other countries.

“This study highlights the urgent need to investigate the safety of sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners,” said Dr. Hazen.

“It’s important to be aware that consuming products with high levels of xylitol could increase the risk of blood clot-related events, though this doesn’t mean you should throw out your toothpaste.”

The study analyzed data from over 3,000 patients in the U.S. and Europe, finding that those with high levels of xylitol in their blood had a higher risk of cardiovascular events over three years. Specifically, a third of the patients with the highest xylitol levels were more likely to experience heart attacks or strokes.

To confirm these findings, the researchers conducted additional tests. They found that xylitol caused blood platelets to clot more easily, increasing the risk of thrombosis.

In one experiment, people who drank a xylitol-sweetened beverage showed significantly higher measures of clotting ability compared to those who drank a glucose-sweetened beverage.

The authors emphasize the need for further studies to understand the long-term cardiovascular effects of xylitol. They also note that their study shows an association, not causation, between xylitol and cardiovascular risk. They recommend consulting a doctor or dietitian for personalized advice on healthy food choices.

Dr. Hazen’s research is part of an ongoing investigation into factors that contribute to cardiovascular risk. His team tracks patients over time to identify blood markers that can predict the development of heart and metabolic diseases.

Dr. Hazen has made significant contributions to the field, including linking gut microbial pathways to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Dr. Hazen also directs Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Microbiome and Human Health and holds the Jan Bleeksma Chair in Vascular Cell Biology and Atherosclerosis. This research underscores the importance of carefully considering the use of sugar substitutes and their potential health impacts.

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