A 2018 science review: Latest research on low calorie sweeteners


  • Consumers of low calorie sweeteners have higher diet quality and lower sugar intake, new data from Australia, Brazil, the UK and the US show
  • Adding up to current evidence, new clinical trials confirm that low calorie sweeteners do not increase appetite, sweetness liking or sweet food intake
  • Nutrition guidelines for diabetes: low calorie sweeteners do not raise blood glucose levels and may be recommended for people with diabetes

New research published in 2018

How much have we enhanced our knowledge about low calorie sweeteners in 2018? Significant new studies, including systematic reviews and well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published this year, have provided additional evidence on the role of low calorie sweeteners in the human diet and advanced our knowledge about the benefits of these sweet-tasting, low-/no-caloric food ingredients. With this article, we aim to provide a brief review of new data coming from key publications and scientific events that took place in 2018.

Low calorie sweeteners consumed as part of a high quality diet

This year there have been several new publications of studies examining the quality of the diet of people consuming low calorie sweeteners. Analysing data from population studies in Australia (Grech et al, 2018), Brazil (Silva-Monteiro et al, 2018), the UK (Patel et al, 2018) and the US (Malek et al, 2018), these studies confirmed previous findings that consumers of low calorie sweeteners have lower sugar intake as well as several other food behaviours that are linked to a higher diet quality.

In regard to the presence of low calorie sweeteners in food products, an interesting analysis of 1,164 food products of different brands from the Spanish ANIBES Study, a cross-sectional study of a representative sample of the Spanish population, showed that 10% of foods and drinks contained low calorie sweeteners in their composition and an additional 5.1% of the products had added sugars and sweeteners together, versus 42% of products that included some type of added sugars (Samaniego-Vaesken et al, 2018).

No evidence that food preferences can change with less exposure to sweetness

A frequently suggested hypothesis that less exposure to sweetness could decrease our preference and liking for sweet taste and in turn could lead to reduced sugar and energy intake and thus to weight loss is not supported by the available evidence, according to a new systematic review by Appleton et al (2018). In contrast, human studies show that, at least in the short-term, eating something sweet satiate our appetite for sweetness, while longer-term data show that exposure to lower sweetness does not affect sweetness preference. In regard to low calorie sweeteners, clinical randomised controlled trials published this year have confirmed that they do not increase appetite nor food intake when compared to water (Fantino et al, 2018; Higgins et al, 2018), while numerous previous studies have shown that they lead to reduced calorie intake when compared to sugars (Serra-Majem et al, 2018).

Low calorie sweeteners in diabetes

The 2018 Diabetes UK evidence-based nutrition guidelines for the prevention and management of diabetes, released in March this year, re-affirmed that: “low calorie sweeteners are safe and may be recommended”. The expert panel of specialist concluded that for people who are accustomed to sugar sweetened products, low calorie sweeteners have the potential to reduce overall energy and carbohydrate intake, they may be preferred to sugar when consumed in moderation and can be a useful strategy for those individuals seeking to control their calorie intake and manage their weight (Dyson et al, 2018). Two months after the publication by Diabetes UK, a new systematic review and meta-analysis of 29 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) by Nichol et al concluded that low calorie sweeteners do not increase nor affect blood glucose levels, and that this absence of glycemic impact of low calorie sweeteners’ consumption makes them a potentially useful dietary aid for people with diabetes or on a weight loss programme (Nichol et al, 2018).

For more detailed information about the latest and key scientific publications on low calorie sweeteners, you may access the ISA scientific library which provides brief summaries with main findings of peer-reviewed scientific studies by clicking here.

Have you missed the ISA Conference in 2018? Latest science presented in London by internationally renowned experts

ISA Conference 2018

In the 3rd Conference of the International Sweeteners Association (ISA) that was organised in London, UK, on 6th November 2018, seventeen international scientific experts with many years of experience and research on areas related to low calorie sweeteners presented current evidence about the use, role and benefits of low calorie sweeteners and discussed which are the future research needs on this fields. The outcomes of the ISA Conference 2018 are summarised in two recently published articles, while the speakers’ talks and video interviews will be released soon. We would like to invite you to read:

  • What do we know about low calorie sweeteners?” A Conference review (part 1) – Available here
  • Emerging research about low calorie sweeteners.” A Conference review (part 2) – Available here

More 2018 congress news

By inviting external scientific experts to present and discuss latest published science on low calorie sweeteners, this year the ISA organised several symposia in important congresses and scientific events in Europe and in Latin America. You can get information about the outcomes of these scientific events by reading the science news articles published on the ISA website during 2018:

  1. Science news from the ISA symposium at GANEPÃO 2018 nutrition conference in Brazil (June 2018): “Sweet taste – no calories: Experts present latest scientific evidence around low calorie sweeteners’ safety, role and benefits” – please click here for review
  2. Science news from the 36th Symposium on Diabetes and Nutrition in Croatia (June 2018): “Low calorie sweeteners and gut microbiome: no effect confirmed in humans” – please click here for review
  3. Science news from the AFDN conference in France (June, 2018): “Low calorie sweeteners: from scientific evidence… to practical use”, authored by Audrey Aveaux – please click here for review
  4. Science news from the FELANPE 2018 Congress in Mexico (September 2018): “Low calorie sweeteners are safe and can bring benefits in weight and glucose control” – please click here for review
  5. Science news from the EFAD Conference 2018 in the Netherlands (September 2018): “What do we know about sweetness preference?” – please click here for review


We hope you enjoy reading the 2018 science review. From our side, we stay committed to continue bringing you the latest and key scientific news over next year as well and we wish you all the best for a happy 2019!

  1. Appleton KM, Tuorila H, Bertenshaw EJ, de Graaf C, Mela DJ. Sweet taste exposure and the subsequent acceptance and preference for sweet taste in the diet: systematic review of the published literature. Am J Clin Nutr 2018; 107: 405–419
  2. Dyson PA, Twenefour D, Breen C, et al. Diabetes UK Position Statements. Diabetes UK evidence-based nutrition guidelines for the prevention and management of diabetes. Diabet Med. 2018; 35: 541-547
  3. Fantino M, Fantino A, Matray M, Mistretta F. Beverages containing low energy sweeteners do not differ from water in their effects on appetite, energy intake and food choices in healthy, non-obese French adults. Appetite 2018; 125: 557-565
  4. Grech A, Kam CO, Gemming L and Rangan A. Diet-Quality and Socio-Demographic Factors Associated with Non-Nutritive Sweetener Use in the Australian Population. Nutrients 2018; 10(7): 833
  5. Higgins KA, Considine RV, Mattes RD. Aspartame Consumption for 12 Weeks Does Not Affect Glycemia, Appetite, or Body Weight of Healthy, Lean Adults in a Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr 2018; 148: 650–657
  6. Malek AM, Hunt KJ, DellaValle DM, Greenberg D, Peter JV, Marriott BP. Reported Consumption of Low-Calorie Sweetener in Foods, Beverages, and Food and Beverage Additions by US Adults: NHANES 2007–2012. Curr Dev Nutr. 2018 Sep; 2(9): nzy054
  7. Nichol AD, Holle MJ, An R. Glycemic impact of non-nutritive sweeteners: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Clin Nutr 2018; 72: 796-804
  8. Patel L, Alicandron G, La Vecchia C. Low-calorie beverage consumption, diet quality and cardiometabolic risk factor in British adults. Nutrients 2018; 10: 1261
  9. Serra-Majem L, Raposo A, Aranceta-Bartrina J, et al. Ibero–American Consensus on Low- and No-Calorie Sweeteners: Safety, nutritional aspects and benefits in food and beverages. Nutrients 2018; 10: 818
  10. Silva Monteiro L, Kulik Hassan B, Melo Rodrigues PR, Massae Yokoo E, Sichieri R, Alves Pereira R. Use of table sugar and artificial sweeteners in Brazil: National Dietary Survey 2008-2009. Nutrients 2018 Mar 1;10(3). pii: E295. doi: 10.3390/nu10030295
  11. Samaniego-Vaesken ML, Ruiz E , Partearroyo T, Aranceta-Bartrina J , Gil A, González-Gross M, Ortega RM, Serra-Majem L and Varela-Moreiras G. Added Sugars and Low- and No-Calorie Sweeteners in a Representative Sample of Food Products Consumed by the Spanish ANIBES Study Population. Nutrients 2018; Sep 7; 10(9): pii: E1265