Low calorie sweeteners: a sweet alternative in weight management and diabetes

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Brussels, 17 October 2014: Sweet cravings and understanding food choices were just some of the key points raised by a panel of world-class multidisciplinary experts at a symposium hosted by the International Sweeteners Association (ISA), as part of the 8th DIETS-EFAD Conference in Athens, Greece. Prof Antonis Zampelas, from the United Arab Emirates University, and the Agricultural University of Athens, and Dr Duane Mellor University of Nottingham, moderated the debate on “Low calorie sweeteners – A fundamental choice in weight management and diabetes”, which addressed the challenges and misconceptions surrounding the use of low calorie sweeteners, as a legitimate tool to help those looking for healthy alternatives.

Dr France Bellisle, from the University Paris 13, shared the outcome from her latest sweet taste literature review which spans over 30 years of scientific research, and explores sweet taste in everyday life, and the benefits of low calorie sweeteners for people concerned about weight management. “Evidence suggests that low calorie sweeteners do not increase the appetite for sweetness, and that people who include low calorie sweeteners in their diet are actually less likely to crave and over-consume sugary foods”, according to Dr France Bellisle, who also added that “many experts believe that low calorie-sweetened foods may often help satisfy our natural desire for sweetness so that we don’t look for it elsewhere in the form of sugary foods.”

Talking about recent studies and meta-analysis on weight loss and weight management, Prof James Hill, from the University of Colorado, highlighted the importance of eating breakfast, being physically active and switching sugary drinks for calorie-free ones to help maintain weight, as demonstrated by the US National Weight Control Registry . Referring to the recent randomized controlled trial comparing the effects of water and diet beverages on weight loss , Prof Hill explained that “slimmers who drank diet beverages as well as water lost slightly, but statistically significantly, more weight than those who only drank water.”

As a group, people with diabetes are amongst the most regular consumers of low calorie sweeteners”, said Dr Aimilia Papakonstantinou, from the Agricultural University of Athens. “Low calorie sweeteners are safe and they have an important role to play in the diets of those with diabetes, as low calorie-sweetened foods can enable diabetics to enjoy sweetness without affecting blood glucose level”.

The good news is that with the right education, weight and NCDs can be addressed through some simple lifestyle adjustments, such as more regular exercise and by making smart swaps, from higher calorie to lower calorie choices each day. By providing sweetness without the calories, low calorie sweetened options can make a useful contribution to a healthy, calorie-controlled diet.

A more in depth review of this session and many others which took place during the four-day conference will soon be available on the ISA website.

Low/No calorie sweetened beverage consumption in the National Weight Control Registry, Catenacci et al., Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014 Oct;22(10):2244-51. doi: 10.1002/oby.20834. Epub 2014 Jul 10.
2The effects of water and non-nutritive sweetened beverages on weight loss during a 12-week weight loss treatment program, Peters JC et al. (2014), Obesity, 22(6), 1415-21.