A Panel of independent experts was convened to discuss the evidence for benefits of Low Calorie sweeteners (LCS) in five key areas. The Consensus Statement represents an agreed position by all members of the Panel.
Low calorie sweeteners do not increase appetite and have no discernible effect on satiety. Preference for sweetness is innate and universal, but the evidence does not suggest that sweeteners stimulate the appetite; indeed they may satisfy desire for sweet things and help compliance with weight-reducing diets. More research is needed into possible habituation to the effects of LCS on appetite, satiety and food intake.
LCS help to reduce energy intake when used in place of higher energy ingredients. The benefit of LCS may be greater for beverages (where sugar is the main or only energy source) than for foods, where other macronutrients may be needed to replace sugar and provide bulk. Ad libitum energy intakes tend to be lower with LCS-sweetened products because people only partly compensate for the missing calories. Compensation may depend on many factors related to form and amount as well as timescale and personal factors. More data from longer-term interventions are needed, but it appears that LCS, especially in beverages, can be a useful aid to maintain reduced energy intake.
LCS can enhance weight loss when used as part of a behavioural weight loss programme. Recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses have concluded that using LCS to replace sugars results in modest weight loss (<1kg over several weeks). LCS beverages produce greater 3-month weight loss compared with water in a recent randomized controlled trial. Use of LCS is also a characteristic of successful weight loss maintainers.
LCS may have a beneficial effect on post-prandial glucose and insulin in healthy individuals and in people with diabetes. EFSA has recently approved the health claim that LCS help reduce post-prandial glycaemic response. Maintaining a healthy body weight is central to good control of diabetes, so LCS may also benefit people with diabetes by facilitating weight control. More research is needed into their role in long-term blood glucose control.
LCS have dental benefits when used in food, beverages, toothpaste and medications, provided other constituents are also non-cariogenic and non-erosive. EFSA has approved the claim that LCS may decrease the rate of tooth demineralization.