Role in a healthy diet

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Low/no calories sweeteners provide a simple way to reduce the amount of sugars and the intake of calories in our diet. When used as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, low/no calorie sweeteners can help us meet current public health recommendations to reduce excessive sugar consumption without affecting the enjoyment of sweet-tasting foods and drinks.

Sweet taste in our diet

Sweetness liking is innate and spans across all ages and cultures around the world, which makes sweet taste an integral part of the human diet. At the same time, reducing excessive sugar intake is a public health recommendation. However, getting people to significantly cut out sweetness in their diet is a challenge. The key benefit of low/no calorie sweeteners is that people can still enjoy food and drinks that have a sweet taste and contain less sugar and fewer calories. In many instances, consuming a low/no calorie sweetened drink can help lower the desire for sweetness and the intake of sweet foods.1

The role of low/no calorie sweeteners in sugar reduction

At a time of worrying rates of obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) globally, governments around the world are committed to addressing this shared challenge with a whole-of-society approach, involving all relevant actors. Policy makers have urged food and drink companies to contribute to reducing NCDs risk factors and to creating healthy food environments by reformulating products to provide healthier options.2,3

Due to their properties, low/no calorie sweeteners enable manufacturers to support these health objectives by developing foods and drinks with less energy and less sugars. By having a very high sweetening power compared to sugars, in practice, low/no calorie sweeteners are used in minute amounts to confer the desired level of sweetness to foods and drinks, while contributing very little or no energy at all to the final product.4

When used as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, low/no calorie sweeteners can help us meet current public health recommendations to reduce excessive sugar consumption without affecting the enjoyment of sweet-tasting foods and drinks. Indeed, consumers of low/no calorie sweetened beverages have higher chances of meeting the recommendation for free sugars’ intake, compared to consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a recent UK study.5

Low/no calorie sweeteners are useful in reducing calorie intake

By replacing sugars in foods and beverages, low/no calorie sweeteners help decrease the energy density of these foods (the amount of calories per gram of food), which, in turn, can mean significant calorie savings. Numerous studies testing the impact of the consumption of low/no calorie sweeteners on calorie intake of the following meal and on total daily energy intake show that there is a significant caloric decrease with low/no calorie sweeteners’ use when compared to sugar, with no significant difference when compared to water or other unsweetened drinks.6,7

Low/no calorie sweeteners as part of a healthy diet

Nutritional guidelines around the world encourage individuals to follow a healthy dietary and lifestyle pattern to support overall health and wellbeing including a healthy body weight. Eating sensibly, choosing a high-quality varied diet from a range of foods and keeping active are all great ways to promote health.

Choosing low/no calorie sweetened foods or drinks has been linked with improved diet quality in different populations around the world such as in the USA, the UK and Brazil.5,8-10 Research shows that consumers of low/no calorie sweetened products tend to have higher-quality diets with less sugar-containing food products and higher intakes of other healthy food groups such as fruits and vegetables.

Low/no calorie sweeteners are also frequently used in weight management efforts and/ or as part of a successful weight loss maintenance strategy.11 People being in a weight-loss effort or who wish to manage their body weight or their glucose levels are using low/no calorie sweetened foods and drinks more often.12,13 Recent research also suggests that the consumption of diet drinks sweetened with low/no calorie sweeteners may help dieters to control food intake when in a state of craving, and also to align potentially conflicting goals of dieters, i.e. pleasurable eating and weight control.14

  1. Bellisle F. Intense Sweeteners, Appetite for the Sweet Taste, and Relationship to Weight Management. Curr Obes Rep 2015; 4(1): 106-110
  2. EU Framework for National Initiatives on Selected Nutrients, Annex II: Added Sugars, 2015
  3. Public Health England (PHE) 2015. Sugar reduction: The evidence for action. Annexe 5: Food Available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/470176/Annexe_5._Food_Supply.pdf
  4. Gibson S, Ashwell M, Arthur J, et al. What can the food and drink industry do to help achieve the 5% free sugars goal? Perspect Public Health.2017 Jul; 137(4): 237-247
  5. Patel L, Alicandron G, La Vecchia C. Low-calorie beverage consumption, diet quality and cardiometabolic risk factor in British adults. Nutrients 2018; 10: 1261
  6. 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 (Lond) 2016; 40: 381-94
  7. Toews I, Lohner S, de Gaudry DK, Sommer J, Meerpohl JJ. Association between intake of non-sugar sweeteners and health outcomes: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials and observational studies. BMJ 2019;363: k4718
  8. Drewnowski A, Rehm CD. Consumption of low-calorie sweeteners among U.S. adults is associated with higher Healthy Eating Index (HEI 2005) scores and more physical activity. Nutrients. 2014; 6(10): 4389-403
  9. Leahy M, Ratliff JC, Riedt CS, Fulgoni III VL. Consumption of Low-Calorie Sweetened Beverages Compared to Water Is Associated with Reduced Intake of Carbohydrates and Sugar, with No Adverse Relationships to Glycemic Responses: Results from the 2001–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Nutrients2017; 9: 928
  10. Silva Monteiro L, Kulik Hassan B, Melo Rodrigues PR, Massae Yokoo E, Sichieri R, Alves Pereira R. Use of table sugar and artificial sweeteners in Brazil: National Dietary Survey 2008-2009. Nutrients 2018; 10: 295
  11. Catenacci VA, Pan Z, Thomas JG, et al. Low/no calorie sweetened beverage consumption in the National Weight Control Registry. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2014; 22(10): 2244-51
  12. Drewnowski A, Rehm C. The use of low-calorie sweeteners is associated with self-reported prior intent to lose weight in a representative sample of US adults. Nutrition & Diabetes 2016; 6: e202
  13. Grech A, Kam CO, Gemming L, Rangan A. Diet-Quality and Socio-Demographic Factors Associated with Non-Nutritive Sweetener Use in the Australian Population. Nutrition 2018; 10: 833
  14. Maloney NG, Christiansen P, Harrold JA, Halford JCG, Hardman CA. Do low-calorie sweetened beverages help to control food cravings? Two experimental studies. Physiology & Behavior 2019; 208: 112500