In a review article, “The Use of Low Calorie Sweeteners by Adults: Impact on Weight Management,” published in the May Edition of the Journal of Nutrition, Anderson et al discuss the relationship between low calorie sweeteners and weight management as well as diet quality in adults.
Weight Management. In their discussion of weight management, the authors noted that “intuitively, LCS [low calorie sweeteners] have the potential to play an important role in helping motivated adults control weight,” but some observational studies have findings to the contrary. In reference to these studies, the authors commented that “correlational studies cannot determine whether overweight adults become overweight because of LCS or whether overweight adults are including them in dietary strategies to help lose weight or stop gaining weight (which seems more plausible).” Findings from observational studies show no significant evidence that LCS use is associated with weight gain. Furthermore, the authors were critical of researchers conducting low quality observational studies when higher quality studies (randomized controlled trials) were possible.
Anderson et al also examined the results of randomized controlled trials – the gold standard of research – to determine the role LCS play in weight management in adults. The authors noted “the results from RCT [randomized controlled trials] are consistent in showing that LCS use does not cause weight gain in adults.” These results revealed that LCS users actually showed lower energy intake over time and significant decreases in sucrose and carbohydrate consumption.
Anderson et al noted that, “recent reviews have concluded that there can be reductions in energy intake arising from LCS use, particularly as a replacement for sugars in foods and beverages.” The authors also found that, these sweeteners do not significantly affect appetite or hunger or sweetness desire in adults. The findings from this study are consistent with findings from researchers Bellisle and Drewnowsk, who found that, “Intense sweeteners are not appetite suppressants. Their ultimate effects will depend on their integration within a reduced calorie diet.”*
Diet Quality. With respect to diet quality, Anderson et al pointed to a study conducted to assess the diet quality of users of low calorie sweetened products that revealed that LCS users reported higher intakes of fruits, dark green and yellow vegetables, calcium, and magnesium when compared to non-LCS users. LCS users also reported lower intakes of added sugars and saturated fats.
Low calorie sweeteners can be an important tool for helping adults maintain their weight by reducing the amount of calories they consume.
The full paper by Anderson et al can be found by clicking here
*Bellisle F, Drewnowski A. Intense sweeteners, energy intake and the control of body weight. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007;61:691-700.