Common sugar substitute linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke

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The safety of sugar substitutes is once again being called into question.

Researchers led by the Cleveland Clinic linked the low-calorie sugar substitute xylitol to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular-related deaths, according to a study published today in the European Heart Journal.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is found in small amounts in fruit and vegetables, and the human body also produces it. As an additive, it looks and tastes like sugar but has 40% fewer calories. It is used, at much higher concentrations than found in nature, in sugar-free gum, candies, toothpaste and baked goods. It can also be found in products labeled “keto-friendly,” particularly in Europe.

The same research team found a similar association last year to the popular sugar substitute erythritol. The use of sugar substitutes has increased significantly over the past decade as concerns about rising obesity rates mount.