Low calorie sweeteners can help in weight management, based on strong body of evidence

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ISA statement in response to Borges et al commentary in Plos Medicine

A strong body of evidence based on high quality research affirms the beneficial role of low calorie sweeteners’ use in helping reduce overall calorie intake when used in place of sugar and as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle, thereby being a useful tool in weight management, contrary to the claims by Borges et al made in a commentary published in Plos Medicine1.

In 2016, a thorough systematic review and meta-analysis2, which analysed the totality of publicly available human and animal studies in relation to low calorie sweeteners’ effect on energy intake and weight loss, concluded that the findings of the available literature are consistent in confirming that the use of low calorie sweeteners can help reduce energy intake and thus can be helpful in weight loss. Surprisingly, the authors missed to include this thorough systematic review in their opinion article.

Importantly, this new publication in Plos Medicine by Borges et al is just a commentary and not a new clinical study or review of the literature and therefore cannot provide supporting data to the claims that there is an “absence of evidence to support the role of diet drinks in preventing weight gain”.

Professor Peter Rogers, University of Bristol, UK, and lead author of the above systematic review2 on low calorie sweeteners, notes: “Low calorie sweeteners’ use alone cannot be expected to prevent obesity. The evidence is that where they replace sugar there is not full compensation for the reduction in calories eaten, and there is over the longer term a corresponding relative reduction in weight and fatness (in children and adults).

In relation to the allegations that industry-sponsored research is more likely to report favourable results regarding diet drinks effects on weight control, based on a recent publication by Mandrioli et al3, the International Sweeteners Association (ISA) has previously commented on this review in a statement. Furthermore, commenting on this study, Prof Carlo La Vecchia, University of Milan, Italy, states “The conclusions in the systematic review by Mandrioli et al raise concerns since they are based on a subjective evaluation of a few reviews that were classified as “favorable” or “unfavorable” on the basis of a questionable algorithm.”

In conclusion, based on high quality research, beverages sweetened with low calorie sweeteners can provide people with a wide choice of sweet-tasting options with low or no calories that can help in reduced energy intake and weight control, when used in place of sugar and as part of a balanced diet.

  1. Borges MC, Louzada ML, de Sa TH, et al. Artificially sweetened beverages and the response to the global obesity crisis. Plos Med 2017; 14(1): e1002195. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002195
  2. Rogers PJ, Hogenkamp PS, de Graaf K, 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
  3. Mandrioli D, Kearns CE, Bero LA (2016) Relationship between Research Outcomes and Risk of Bias, Study Sponsorship, and Author Financial Conflicts of Interest in Reviews of the Effects of Artificially Sweetened Beverages on Weight Outcomes: A Systematic Review of Reviews. PLoS ONE 11(9): e0162198. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0162198