New clinical trial on the effects of low calorie sweetened beverages on body weight

Being a successful “loser”, when it comes to weight loss and maintenance, is not exactly an easy task. Losing weight is hard already, but keeping the lost weight off is the biggest challenge. A number of epidemiological and clinical studies1,2,3 have identified certain strategies and tools that might prove helpful in weight loss maintenance, including the use of low calorie sweeteners as part of a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.

A new randomized clinical study, published in the peer-reviewed journal ‘Obesity’4, brings good news to dieters who want keep the sweet taste but not the calories in their weight maintenance programme, as it provides strong evidence that low calorie sweetened beverages can help them to successfully maintain their body weight in the long-term.

Better outcomes achieved with low calorie sweetened beverages in a weight maintenance programme

The study evaluated the effects of water versus low calorie sweetened beverages (LCS beverages) on body weight in a sample of 303 overweight and obese adults during a year-long behavioural weight loss and maintenance programme. The participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: those who were allowed to consume LCS beverages (710ml/ 24 ounces daily) and those who were in a control group drinking only water. Results from the one-year trial, which was completed by 222 subjects (no difference between groups), showed that the LCS group had:

  • Greater maintenance of weight loss: participants drinking LCS beverages had better outcomes at 52 weeks (6.21±7.65 kg), compared to the group drinking water alone (2.45±5.59 kg; P < 0.001). Nearly 19% more subjects in the LCS beverages group lost at least 5% of their body weight from baseline to year one compared to the water group (44,2% vs 25,5%).
  • Higher reduction in waist circumference: Waist circumference decreased significantly more in the LCS beverages group compared to the water group (on average -8,67cm vs -4,17cm; P<0.001).
  • Less hunger: Subjects in the water group reported feeling significantly more hungry at year one compared to baseline, while the LCS beverages group reported no increase in subjective hunger.

This new publication by Peters et al builds on the results from the first phase of the study, which found that subjects who consumed diet drinks lost 45 percent more weight than those in the water group (on average 5.95 kg vs. 4.09 kg, P < 0.001) during a 12-weeks weight loss programme5.

Further human studies confirm long-term benefits of consuming low calorie sweeteners

A considerable body of scientific evidence in humans6,7,8,9, primarily RCTs, which are the gold standard in nutrition research, agree that low calorie sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose can help in reducing energy intake and body weight, both in a short-term and long-term period, when consumed as part of a healthy weight-loss dietary plan. For example, a two-year prospective randomised trial6 found that using foods and drinks with low calorie sweeteners during a weight loss programme helped people with obesity lose more weight and maintain it more effectively for a 2-year period compared to non-users. Similarly, another randomized clinical study7 with 318 participants showed that obese people using low calorie sweeteners in their weight loss effort achieved greater results over a 6-months period. More recently, a meta-analysis8 of randomised controlled trials also confirmed that “use of low calorie sweeteners in place of sugars leads to reduced energy intake and body weight, in both children and adults”.

Top strategies for long-term weight maintenance

A number of common behaviours have been identified in individuals who successfully keep the lost weight off. The following are the top five strategies usually adopted for successful weight maintenance, based on outcomes from the National Weight Control Registry3,9,10, the largest prospective study of long-term successful weight loss maintenance.

  • Eat a healthy breakfast on a daily basis.
  • Monitor your body weight once a week.
  • Be more active everyday! Exercise regularly and engage in less sedentary activities.
  • Eat regular, healthy meals and snacks four to five times daily. Try to have your meals at planned times during the day.
  • Choose foods and drinks sweetened with low calorie sweeteners.

By providing sweetness without the calories, low calorie sweetened options can make a useful contribution to a healthy, calorie-controlled diet, and help dieters in their weight loss and long-term weight management effort. You may find useful tips for smart swaps that can help you replace a typical food and drink with a lower calorie option in ISA factsheet by clicking here.

Read more useful advice and tips for successful weight management in British Dietetic Association’s Food Fact Sheet here.

You may access the original publication by Peters et al here. The study was funded by the American Beverage Association.

  1. Soleymani T., Daniel S. and Garvey, W. T. Obes Rev 2016, 17: 81–93
  2. Dombrowski SU et al, BMJ 2014; 348: g2646
  3. Wing RR and Phelan S. Am J Clin Nutr 2005, 82 (1Suppl): 222S-225S
  4. Peters JC et al, Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Dec 26. doi: 10.1002/oby.21327.
  5. Peters JC et al, Obesity (Silver Spring) 2014; 22: 1415-1421
  6. Blackburn GL et al, Am J Clin Nutr 1997; 65: 409-418.
  7. Tate DF et al, Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:555-563.
  8. Rogers PJ et al, Int J Obes (Lond). 2015 Sep 14. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2015.177
  9. Catenacci VA et al, Obesity (Silver Spring) 2014; 22:2244-2251.
  10. Thomas JG et al, Am J Prev Med 2014; 46, 1, 17-23