Low/no calorie sweeteners: their role in calorie reduction and diabetes management

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Science news from the 13th European Nutrition Conference (FENS 2019)

FENS Conference 2019 – Dublin, 16th October: As obesity rates continue to increase worldwide and calorie and sugar reduction have become public health priorities, low/no calorie sweeteners can be a useful tool in food reformulation as they allow to replace sugar and reduce calories in foods and beverages while maintaining the pleasure of sweet taste. Recognising the role of low/no calorie sweeteners in this context, as well as the increased scientific interest around the role they can play in weight and diabetes control, today the International Sweeteners Association (ISA) organised the symposium “Low calorie sweeteners in the human diet: Scientific evidence and recommendations about their use and benefits” as part of the 13th European Nutrition Conference (FENS 2019), held from 15th to 18th October in Dublin (Ireland).

Presenting the findings from a recent study1Prof Jason Halford, University of Liverpool (UK), highlighted the useful role of low/no calorie sweetened beverages, as they allow consumers looking to reduce, or manage calorie intake to keep enjoying a palatable diet. Thereby they also allow people to align two potential conflicting goals, in this case hedonic eating and successful weight control. Furthermore, this study found that frequent consumers may use low/no calorie sweetened beverages as a successful strategy to control food – and thus calorie – intake when in a state of craving. From a psychological perspective, having diet beverages available also allowed these consumers to feel more in control of, and less guilty about what they were eating. Read more about the outcomes of this study in our related article “Do low-calorie sweetened beverages help to control food cravings?” available here.

Adding to the presentation by Prof Halford, Prof Anne Raben, University of Copenhagen (Denmark), shared the results of comprehensive systematic reviews and meta-analyses published in recent years. These indeed suggest that the use of low/no calorie sweeteners may lead to relatively reduced calorie intake, and in turn body weight, compared with sugar, in both adults and children.2 They further show that low/no calorie sweeteners do not affect blood glucose control.3,4 The benefit of consuming foods/drinks containing low/no calorie sweeteners instead of sugar in that they induce a lower blood glucose rise after their consumption compared to sugar-containing foods/drinks is also recognised in a scientific opinion by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and is an authorised health claim in the EU Register of nutrition and health claims.5

In the context of the recommendations from public health authorities globally to reduce sugars’ intake in order to lower the risk and prevalence of obesity,6 Dr Margaret Ashwell OBE, Ashwell Associates (UK), presented the outcomes of a consensus workshop on low/no calorie sweeteners that took place in November 2018. She emphasised the useful role that low/no calorie sweeteners can play in dietary approaches to help in the prevention and management of diabetes and obesity, if used as part of an overall healthy and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. From a policy perspective, the experts who participated in the workshop suggested the need to help reconcile policy discrepancies by seeking common understanding of the role of low/no calorie sweeteners in the diet by policy makers, scientists and regulatory experts. It would also be helpful to review the regulatory hurdles that impede product development and reformulation designed to reduce sugars and calories, experts highlighted.

For more information about the ISA symposium and studies presented on this occasion, we invite you to read the dedicated, more detailed, article available on the ISA website here. To read more about the ISA participation to FENS 2019, please click here.

Engage in the conversation on social media about FENS 2019 by using #FENS2019 and share your thoughts on the ISA symposium by using #ISAatFENS.

  1. Maloney NG, Christiansen P, Harrold JA, Halford JCG, Hardman CA. Do low calorie sweetened beverages help to control food cravings? Two experimental studies. Physiology & Behaviour 2019; 208: 112500
  2. Rogers PJ, Hogenkamp PS, de Graaf C., 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: 381–394
  3. 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
  4. Tucker RM, Tan SY. Do non-nutritive sweeteners influence acute glucose homeostasis in humans? A systematic review. Physiol Behav 2017; 182: 17-26
  5. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that: “Consumption of foods/drinks containing intense sweeteners instead of sugar induces a lower blood glucose rise after their consumption compared to sugar-containing foods/drinks”. EFSA Scientific opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to intense sweeteners. EFSA 2011 Journal 9(6): 2229, and 9(4): 2076
  6. Public Health England (PHE) 2015. Sugar reduction: The evidence for action. Annexe 5: Food Supply. Available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/470176/Annexe_5._Food_Supp…