Replacing sugar with low-calorie sweeteners is a common strategy for facilitating weight control. By providing sweet taste without calories, intense sweeteners help lower energy density of beverages and some foods. Reduced dietary energy density should result in lower energy intakes–but are the energy reduction goals, in fact, achieved? The uncoupling of sweetness and energy, afforded by intense sweeteners, has been the focus of numerous studies over the past two decades. There are recurring arguments that intense sweeteners increase appetite for sweet foods, promote overeating, and may even lead to weight gain. Does reducing energy density of sweet beverages and foods have a measurable impact on appetite and energy intakes, as examined both in short-term studies and over a longer period? Can reductions in dietary energy density achieved with intense sweeteners really affect body weight control? This paper reviews evidence from laboratory, clinical and epidemiological studies in the context of current research on energy density, satiety and the control of food intake.
This paper reviews evidence from laboratory, clinical and epidemiological studies in the context of current research on energy density, satiety and the control of food intake in relation with the scope of answering the core question of whether reducing the energy density of sweet beverages and foods has a measureable impact on appetite and overall energy intake. The authors conclude that diet beverages might represent the optimal use of intense sweeteners in the context of a weight control strategy, and although they have been shown to be associated with some modest weight loss in some trials, intense sweeteners are not appetite suppressants. Their ultimate effects will depend on their integration within a reduced energy diet.