High intensity, low-energy sweeteners (LES) are used by many consumers in order to limit energy intake and possibly facilitate body weight control. These beneficial effects are often questioned in the scientific and lay media. LES are frequently accused of stimulating and/or maintaining a liking for sweetness which in turn would be deleterious for adequate body weight control. Evidence for the specific effects of LES use on appetite for sweet products will be extracted from observational studies, experimental laboratory studies, randomized controlled trials, and finally brain imaging studies. While many of the existing studies cannot identify any causal links between use of LES and appetite for sweetness, randomized trials in children and adults suggest that use of LES tends to reduce rather than increase the intake of sugar-containing foods and to facilitate, rather than impair, weight loss.
The result of this scientific review highlights that overall, “the existing studies, using widely differing methodologies in various types of consumers (men, women, lean, obese, never obese, and formerly obese), reach largely convergent conclusions: the use of low energy sweeteners (LES) shows no consistent association with a heightened appetite for sugar or sweet products.” The author reports, “in many instances, the use of LES is associated with a lower intake of sweet tasting substances.” The author states, “recent intervention studies in children and adults confirm that LES use tends to reduce rather than increase the intake of sugar-containing foods, and to facilitate, rather than impair, weight loss.” The author concludes that, “longer-term randomized studies are needed to confirm the benefits of LES in different aspects of weight control: prevention of weight gain, weight loss, and/or maintenance of weight loss.”