Sweet Tragedy

Clinical research reveals a significant correlation between cardiac events and a popular low-calorie sweetener called erythritol. This article considers the potential fallout.

Rise and Fall


In a public disaster of epic proportions, health leaders consider how to contain effects of an erroneous recommendation. To satisfy the sweet tooth’s of dieters and diabetics, the 18,000-person agency, FDA granted approval of an inexpensive sugar substitute. With virtually no calories, the ingredient quickly saturated the global market.

Erythritol (erythrol, erythrite, erythoglucin, eryglucin, erythromannite, phycite, or Zerose) is available in granulated or powered form for baking. It is within the ingredient list of many low-calorie sweets and desserts.

Twenty-two years later, independent scientific research reveals a significant correlation between erythritol and cardiovascular events. With pressure from lobbyists to discredit the findings, the Food and Drug Administration weighs the liability of its decision and the culpability of commercial food manufacturers.

Overwhelmed with anxiety, the FDA commissioner, though in office just one year, resigns. In her place, Robert Califf is in a position to absolve himself of responsibility or be the fall guy. For public safety, he weighs whether to issue an immediate ban on erythritol, requiring a major recall, valued in the billions of dollars. Other countries would issue similar edicts.

Legal Ramifications

Attorneys begin sharpening pencils for class-action lawsuits. An ideal witness would be a patient by the name of Nadine Palmer. This 34-year-old mother of three young children is neither obese nor diabetic. As sugar-free advocate, she uses erythritol products in desserts, posting videos on a popular social media channel.

Her family also consumes diet soft drinks with erythritol. Nadine then suffers an ischemic stroke that paralyzes her left side, hindering care of her children, and possibly putting them at risk for similar cardiovascular events.

The problem for the prosecution is that Palmer doesn’t yet exist. She is what AI chatbots determine to be the ideal profile of a key witness. If class-action litigators could find such a woman, they might prevail. So a massive ad campaign encourages erythritol users with such symptoms to respond and be named in the lawsuit for higher compensation.

Corporate executives enlist private investigators to gather intel that may discredit troublesome scientists, while funding their own biased research. The fact is that many groups of scientists over the years have performed clinical studies with conflicting reports of health benefits. Some researchers conclude it does not have a significant effect on blood sugar levels. Others suggest it can improve post-meal blood pressure.

Events leading up to a landmark trial of the century may fizzle like the effervescence of diet soft drinks laced with the sweeter. Alternatively, a recall could bankrupt suppliers throughout the food chain.

A backlash of litigation would initiate a struggle to mitigate responsibility for thousands of deaths and disabilities. CEO’s would hire public relations firms to control the narrative in an attempt to quell fears of stockholders contemplating the sale of corporate shares.

Like stirring sugar water, will the damning research dissolve in the face of obfuscating reports? As sugar granules in an hourglass, time will tell how the sweet the promise of erythritol is.

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The clinical discovery is real. The way others react is supposition. As a consumer, consider potential health risks of the sweetener called erythritol.

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

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