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I am sure you have heard the news... A recent study suggests that higher blood levels of artificial sweeteners were associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke. However, we have known this for years. This study is not the first.

There is a tremendous amount of evidence suggesting the detrimental effects of artificial sweeteners. Another study from last year, published in the BMJ, which involved more than 100,000 adults, found a link between consumption of artificial sweeteners and heart disease.

The Problem

These products are often touted as being "healthy" because they contain little-to-no calories. Obviously, replacement of sugar with a low-calorie sweetener may contribute to a reduction in body weight. However, you could be doing more harm than good.

Research has consistently found that those with higher blood concentrations of sugar substitutes are more likely to have a stroke or heart attack. Among people who consumed erythritol at levels typical in a pint of "keto" ice cream, or a can of an artificially sweetened beverage, the sugar alcohol lingered in their blood for longer than two days.

Erythritol is also found in Stevia and "monk fruit". Sodas are the biggest source of artificial sweeteners in our food supply. Though a lot of the artificial sweeteners people are consuming are coming from foods that you might think of as "healthy". Two prime examples: flavored yogurts and sports drinks.

From a physiological perspective, the problem lies in the ability of erythritol to enhance the reaction of platelets, and therefore promote blood clotting. A serving of erythritol in common "keto-friendly" processed food products made blood levels of erythritol go up 1,000-fold, well above the levels linked to enhanced clotting risks.

Erythritol is not the only culprit. Similar results have been shown for people who consume aspartame (found in the tabletop sweeteners Equal and NutraSweet as well as cereals, yogurt, candy and diet soda). Those who consume large amounts of aspartame had a higher risk of stroke than people who didn’t consume the sweetener.

Similarly, people who consumed high quantities of sucralose (found in Splenda as well as baked goods, ice cream, canned fruit, flavored yogurt and syrups) and acesulfame potassium, often used in "sugar-free" soda, had a higher risk of coronary heart disease.

Additional research suggests that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body's ability to properly metabolize glucose, which can be a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular health issues. Two sweeteners in particular, sucralose and saccharin (found in Sweet ‘N Low), altered some people's ability to process glucose.

The researchers also observed alterations in the participants' gut microbes. The changes were not seen in people who did not consume artificial sweeteners.

There is also evidence to support a relationship between artificial sweeteners and increased cancer risk.

So, what should you do?

Eat a natural, well-balanced diet. Healthy sugar substitutes include:

Raw Honey

Raw honey is a true superfood and one of the best natural sweeteners. It’s packed with enzymes, antioxidants, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, vitamin B6, riboflavin and niacin. Together, these essential nutrients help neutralize free radicals while promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.

One tablespoon of raw honey has less impact on glycemic load than a single banana. Once pasteurized, honey loses many of its benefits, so look for raw (ideally local) honey at farmers markets and directly from local beekeepers.

The darker the honey, the richer the flavor and the greater the nutrition benefits.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar has a low glycemic load and rich mineral content. Packed with polyphenols, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, phosphorous and other phytonutrients, coconut sugar is quite versatile.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is one of the best natural sugar substitutes because it’s an outstanding source of manganese and contains calcium, potassium and zinc. Rich with antioxidants, this all-natural sweetener helps neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative damage.

Select darker, grade B maple syrups, as they contain more beneficial antioxidants than the lighter syrups.

Blackstrap Molasses

Organic blackstrap molasses is highly nutritious, rich in copper, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, selenium and vitamin B6. Sugarcane and beet molasses have been shown to have the highest phenolic content and antioxidant activity.

what if i just have a "little" of the artificial stuff?

According to the data, anything over 77 milligrams per day, is too much. Putting it into perspective, a 12-ounce can of diet soda contains around 200 milligrams of aspartame.

For more information on this topic, contact Dr. Peters (



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