New evidence about low calorie sweeteners’ use as a means to help manage calorie intake and reduce sweet food cravings

Science news from the 24th European Congress on Obesity in Porto

Porto, 19th May 2017 – Latest study findings on the long-debated topic of low calorie sweeteners’ effect on appetite, energy intake and weight control add further compelling evidence in support of low calorie sweeteners’ use in the diet as a useful strategy that can help control caloric intake and probably also help combat cravings for sweet-tasting foods.

The new scientific data, presented for the first time at the ISA symposium at the 24th European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Porto, are in line with the existing high quality evidence from systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials (RCTs), which were discussed in a talk by Dr John Sievenpiper. Indeed, individual RCTs up to 18 months have shown a beneficial effect on calorie reduction and improvements in body weight and associated cardiometabolic risk factors when low calorie sweeteners are used to displace calories from sugars. “Contrary to concerns, all indications from the highest quality evidence from randomized trials are of benefit”, Dr Sievenpiper emphasized in his final conclusions.

While it is widely recognised by the scientific community that replacing sugar-containing foods and drinks with their low calorie sweetened alternatives can help in sugar and overall calorie reduction, the effect of diet drinks on energy intake, when compared with water, is often a topic of controversy. Aiming to provide new evidence and close the research gap in this scientific area, Dr Marc Fantino and his team in France conducted a RCT with 164 healthy and normal-weight men and women, who were either regular diet drink consumers or non-consumers of low calorie sweeteners. In his presentation, Dr Fantino concluded that “In our non-inferiority study, we found that both the short- and long-term intake of beverages sweetened with low calorie sweeteners (daily intake of 660mL/ day for a period of 4 weeks) does not stimulate food consumption nor increase their caloric intake, compared with water, which is proposed as the preferred replacement for sugar-sweetened beverages.

In an insightful talk, Dr Charlotte A. Hardman presented the preliminary results of an ongoing research conducted by the University of Liverpool (UK), which examines the psychological factors driving low calorie drinks’ intake in frequent consumers. In her final remarks, Dr Charlotte A. Hardman noted that, based on the study findings, “body weight concerns and positive beliefs about palatability and appetite control are key determinants of low calorie sweetened beverage consumption”. Examining further consumption behaviours in frequent and non-regular consumers of low calorie sweeteners, initial results tentatively indicate that the use of diet drinks by frequent consumers is an efficient strategy to combat sweet food cravings and to successfully reduce energy intake when in a state of craving, compared to non-consumers.

In the closing panel discussion, chaired by Prof Maria Hassapidou, the experts agreed that: “Taken together, these data add further evidence in support of a compelling argument for the benefit of low calorie sweeteners in overall calorie reduction and in weight control, and argue against a role of low calorie sweeteners in the promotion of obesity and diabetes. To address any uncertainties, there remains a need for larger, longer, high quality randomised clinical trials.”

For more insightful information and interesting outcomes of the ISA symposium at ECO 2017, please visit the dedicated page on the ISA website by clicking here.