ISA-FINUT Webinar: Experts discuss latest science on Low/No Calorie Sweeteners

1 July 2024: What does the latest science say on the safety and benefits of low and no calorie sweeteners (LNCS) and what are the global recommendations about their use? These are some of the questions scientific experts discussed during a webinar hosted on 27th June by the International Sweeteners Association (ISA) in partnership with the Fundación Iberoamericana de Nutrición (FINUT).

The ISA and FINUT brought together leading experts from the Latin American and global nutrition and health community to discuss the emerging science on low/no calorie sweeteners  and the impact from a public health perspective: Dr Luis Alberto Moreno Aznar, President of FINUT, Diego Varela, Vice President of the Codex Alimentarius and Executive Secretary of ACHIPIA (The Chilean Agency for Food Safety and Quality), Dr Samuel Durán, Nutrition Department, University of San Sebastián, Chile, Dr Hugo Laviada-Molina, Universidad Marista de Mérida, Mexico and Professor Kees de Graaf from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

The safety of low/no calorie sweeteners was a central part of the debate. Regulatory bodies worldwide, such as the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/ World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), have confirmed the safety LNCS. Many countries in Latin America approve the use of low/no calorie sweeteners based on JECFA’s safety assessment and the Codex Alimentarius provisions.

In response to high sugar consumption levels in Chile, the 2016Chilean food labelling law was implemented,leading to important industry efforts to reformulate food and drink products to reduce sugar, including by using low/no calorie sweeteners. Research presented by Dr Samuel Durán showed that even with consumers turning to LNCS products, LNCS’ intake did not surpass the recommended Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) set for each sweetener, among the general population, including children.

Dr Laviada-Molina highlighted important data on the benefits of low/no calorie sweeteners. Evidence from multiple clinical studies as assessed in systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials (RCTs) shows a reduction in caloric intake when LNCS are used instead of sugar. This in turn can lead to moderate weight loss, while having no impact on insulin or blood glucose levels.

Contrary to evidence from RCTs, observational studies provide inconsistent results about the association between low/no calorie sweeteners’ intake and body weight as any observed associations are susceptible to reverse causation. As explained by Dr Laviada-Molina, it’s more likely that overweight people or with obesity consume LNCS as a tool to manage their weight, rather than LNCS causing overnutrition or obesity. The weight loss and caloric reduction benefits of LNCS have been further confirmed by organisations such as the American Diabetes Association, the Diabetes and Nutrition Study Group of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes and Diabetes UK.

Robust research conducted by Professor de Graaf does not support the notion that low/no calorie sweeteners’ use can lead to a heightened appetite for sweetness, sugar, or sweet products, or that there is an association between exposure to sweetness and a change in taste preferences. Research to date shows that there is no evidence of sweetness exposure leading to higher sweetness preferences, neither through repeated exposure nor through cephalic phase insulin response. Led by Prof. de Graaf, a research team from Bournemouth and Wageningen Universities in the UK and the Netherlands, respectively, are conducting the largest study to date on this topic, whose results are expected to be available soon.

The webinar closed with an insightful discussion session where the speakers also stressed the need for more high-quality, long-term studies on LNCS that use more robust dietary intake assessments, standardized methodologies and follow good statistical practice.

More information about the safety and benefits of low/no calorie sweeteners can be found here:

  • Safety Evaluation of low/no calorie sweeteners (factsheet)
  • Role of low/no calorie sweeteners in weight control (factsheet)
  • Smart swaps as part of a healthy diet: The role of low/no calorie sweeteners (factsheet)


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