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Sugar Substitute Tied to Higher Risk for Heart Attack, Stroke

High levels of xylitol, a low-calorie sweetener used in many reduced-sugar foods as well as gum and toothpaste, are linked to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death, says a new study published in the European Heart Journal.

The research team studied more than 3000 people in the US and Europe over 3 years and found that people with the highest amount of xylitol in their plasma were more likely to have a problem with their heart or blood vessels.

To show the early effects of xylitol, researchers studied platelet activity in volunteers who consumed a xylitol-sweetened drink and a glucose-sweetened drink. The xylitol levels went up by 1000 times in people after the xylitol drink but not after the glucose-sweetened drink.

Xylitol is naturally found in small amounts in fruit and vegetables, and it’s been used more as a sugar substitute over the past decade in processed foods, toothpaste, chewing gum, and other products.

I am personally not a fan of using alcohol sugars, like xylitol in food products or drinks. Xylitol has anti-microbial properties, so it's use in nasal sprays is OK by me. If your toothpaste is sweetened by xylitol, you are not swallowing it, so I feel that is safe as well.

A similar link between erythritol, another sugar substance, and problems with the heart and blood vessels were found last year by the same research team.

In response to the study, the Calorie Control Council, a trade association representing the low- and reduced-calorie food and beverage industry, said xylitol has been approved for decades by government agencies. The study results may not apply to the general population because some people in the study already had a higher risk of having problems with their heart and blood vessels, it said.

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