Health

June 15, 2024

Chewing gum, toothpaste, sweets linked to heart attacks and strokes

Chewing gum, toothpaste, sweets linked to heart attacks and strokes

By Sola Ogundipe

While sugary foods are bad for people’s health, Xylitol, a common sugar substitute, may be even worse according to recent studies.

Xylitol is a natural sweetener found in plants and is gaining popularity as a sugar substitute. However, research suggests it may contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and blood clots.

Researchers at Cleveland Clinic say that the common sugar substitute referred to as a ‘sugar alcohol’ often used in sugar-free sweets, mints, chewing gums, cakes, biscuits, and even added to toothpaste, mouthwash and in some peanut butters, could be making people fat and increasing risk of diabetes and other  cardiovascular events caused by blood clots.

The Chair of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Sciences at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, Dr Hazen said: “This study shows the immediate need for investigating sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners, especially as they continue to be recommended in combating conditions like obesity or diabetes.

Experts say people should not throw out their toothpaste if it has xylitol in it, but need to be aware that consumption of a product containing high levels could increase the risk of blood clot related events.

The research team recently found a similar link between erythritol — a chemical used in some energy drinks  — and higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

The study – published in he European Heart Journal – analysed data on more than 3,000 patients and found that high levels of xylitol were linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular events over a three year period. It found that high levels of xylitol were linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular events over a three year period.

To confirm their findings, the research team conducted pre-clinical testing and found that xylitol caused blood platelets to clot and heightened the risk of blood clots.

Researchers also tracked platelet activity in people who drank a xylitol-sweetened drink and compared it to people who chugged a glucose-sweetened drink.

They found that clotting ability significantly increased immediately after consuming xylitol, but not glucose.  Further studies are required to assess whether it’s safe for cardiovascular health to consume xylitol long-term.

The study had several limitations – for example, they could only confirm a link between xylitol and heart attacks and strokes, not that the sweetener caused these health events.

They recommend talking to a doctor or a certified dietitian to learn more about healthy food choices and for personalised recommendations.

Carla Saunders, President, ‎Calorie Control Council, said in response to the study: “The results of this study are contrary to decades of scientific evidence substantiating the safety and efficacy of low-calorie sweeteners such as xylitol by global health and regulatory ‎agencies.

“While the authors used multiple methods, it should be noted that the findings are limited in their ability to establish association only.

“Further, one phase of the study included individuals who were already at increased risk for adverse cardiovascular events.‎

“These findings are a disservice to those who rely on alternative sweeteners as a tool to improve their health,” she stated.‎

“Xylitol has been trusted as a great tasting low-calorie sweetener for over 60 years.

“It has proven dental benefits, including preventing plaque build-up and tooth decay, and is naturally occurring in foods such as strawberries, lettuce, and oats.”

It comes after research found that the artificial sweetener neotame – found in cakes, drinks and chewing gum – could damage the gut and cause serious illness.