business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports that "some doctors are urging patients to cut back their consumption of sugar substitutes as questions mount about their health effects. 

"In the latest study, published February in the journal Nature Medicine, Cleveland Clinic researchers found that the commonly used zero-calorie sweetener erythritol was associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and death within three years."

The Journal notes that "researchers have long probed possible health risks of alternative sweeteners, but many studies have used food diaries, which researchers say aren’t always a reliable record of what people actually eat. The latest study on erythritol is more robust and comprehensive.

"Other research has suggested that certain sugar alternatives such as sucralose and saccharin might increase people’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes."

Stanley L. Hazen, senior author of the study and chair of the department of cardiovascular and metabolic sciences at the Cleveland Clinic, tells the Journal that "in every group they analyzed, participants with higher levels of erythritol were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke or die in three years. The researchers also did animal and lab studies, finding that erythritol resulted in an increased risk of clotting in mice and in blood and platelet samples.

"Dr. Hazen says he is telling patients to look carefully at labels on foods they buy, although he notes that erythritol might not always be specifically named with amounts as an ingredient. Products with ingredients such as 'sugar alcohol' or 'natural sweeteners' could include erythritol.  He recommends avoiding foods and drinks sweetened with sugar alternatives. Use fruit or honey in moderation, or a little bit of sugar, if you want to sweeten something, he suggests."

The Journal notes that "the Calorie Control Council, a trade group representing the low-calorie food and beverage industry, said in an email that the safety of erythritol is backed by years of research. It said that findings from a study focusing on people already at risk for cardiovascular issues shouldn’t extend to the wider population."

KC's View:

Isn't that what lobbying groups always say, often for years, before evidence comes out that the product they are representing is bad for folks?

It doesn't always work that way.  But sometimes, and enough for me to take its comments with a grain of … salt?