Low calorie sweeteners’ benefits in weight control are well documented

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ISA statement in response to a Press Release by the Endocrine Society

The collective body of evidence supporting low calorie sweeteners’ benefits in weight control overshadows claims in a new sucralose study presented at the Endocrine Society’s 99th annual meeting (ENDO 2017) on Monday 3rd April 2017. 1

A strong body of evidence based on a wealth of in vivo and human research shows that, when used in place of sugar, low calorie sweeteners, including sucralose, can help in reduced overall energy intake and weight loss and overshadows research being touted in a press release by the Endocrine Society, primarily about a cellular study on the potential for sucralose to affect body fat.

The conclusions drawn by the investigators are wholly inconsistent with the far more robust studies, and points to both over-reaching, inflammatory conclusions and a want of good scientific rigour. Moreover, the types of studies presented at ENDO 2017 are not the kinds of studies that can be considered appropriate for actual assessment of effects on human body weight or adiposity.

The reported results are overturned by extensive in vivo research studies that show that low calorie sweeteners, including sucralose, do not increase either body weight or adiposity. Indeed, in a 6-month randomised clinical trial (RCT) with 47 participants, daily consumption of 1L of diet drinks did not cause fat storage in the liver, muscle, and visceral fat depot, actually showing similar effects to those of water2. Similarly, in another RCT, intrahepatic lipid (fat) concentration was reduced to 74% of initial values when the study participants replaced their daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages with beverages containing low calorie sweeteners, which included beverages containing sucralose3. Moreover, two new research studies in rodents further support the evidence that sucralose does not cause weight gain4, 5. Importantly, a large number of randomised clinical trials and well-designed systematic reviews have repetitively shown that, when used in place of sugar, low calorie sweeteners can help in energy reduction and weight loss6, 7, 8.

It is widely recognised by the scientific community that it is critical to both avoid premature conclusions that might result from a single research study, especially when few details are available, and to look at the entire body of evidence. The collective body of evidence, based on a wealth of well-designed research, supports that all approved low calorie sweeteners can help safely lower sugar intake. They can be a useful tool in nutritional strategies for maintaining or lowering body weight and fatness.

  1. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-04/tes-lsp040117.php
  2. Maersk et al. Sucrose-sweetened beverages increase fat storage in the liver, muscle, and visceral fat depot: a 6-mo randomized intervention study. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:283–9.
  3. Campos et al. Sugar- and artificially sweetened beverages and intrahepatic fat: A randomized controlled trial. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Dec;23(12):2335-9.
  4. Tordoff MG. et al. Does eating good-tasting food influence body weight? Physiol Behav 2016 Dec 15; 170: 27-31. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.12.013. [Epub ahead of print]
  5. Soto M et al. Metabolic effects of intermittent access to caloric or non-caloric sweetened solutions in mice fed a high-caloric diet. Physiol Behav. 2017 Mar 24. pii: S0031-9384(16)31198-2. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.03.024. [Epub ahead of print]
  6. Miller, P.E., Perez, V. (2014) Low-calorie sweeteners and body weight and composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 100 [pgs. 765-777]
  7. Rogers PJ. et al. Does low-energy sweetener consumption affect energy intake and body weight? A systematic review, including meta-analyses, of the evidence from human and animal studies. Int J Obes, 2016; 40(3): 381-94.
  8. Peters, J. C., & Beck, J. Low Calorie Sweetener (LCS) use and energy balance. Physiology & behavior, 2016; 164: 524-528