Sweetness in diabetes and weight management: Low calorie sweeteners can offer a sweet solution without the calories

AFDN Congress- Lille, 26 May 2016: Joining more than 800 dietitians and nutrition experts from around France, ISA was punctual with its “rendez-vous” with the scientific community, by participating in the 54th Journees d’Etudes de l’AFDN (Première ?rganisation Professionnelle Française de Diététiciens), held in Lille from 26th until 28th May.

Hosting a round table around “Sweetness in dietetic practice: How low calorie sweeteners can be an effective tool in diabetes and weight management” on 26th May, the ISA invited two renowned experts in the field of nutrition to discuss the role of low calorie sweeteners in weight loss and maintenance, as well as their benefits in glycemic control in people with diabetes.

More specifically, Dr Jean-Michel Lecerf, who is leading the Nutrition Department of Institut Pasteur in Lille, opened the discussion by presenting the latest scientific evidence around the effectiveness of low calorie sweeteners in weight management. According to Dr Lecerf, “reducing our daily calorie intake is a well-established approach in weight loss, and low calorie sweeteners, when added in foods and drinks in place of sugar, can reduce the energy content, while maintaining both palatability and sweetness in our diet”.

In the fight against overweight and obesity, behavioural education is an indispensable strategy in order to improve our dietary habits in the long run, and an important part of this process is to educate people on how they can best manage their innate desire for sweet taste. Dr Lecerf recognised the human preference for sweetness as a physiological need and an innate pleasure, observable even at birth, that people do not need to eliminate from their diet, however he could not disregard the fact that sweetness often comes with calories, which, in excess, can lead to obesity and overweight. This is exactly where low calorie sweeteners can be a very useful ally within a weight loss or maintenance programme, as their greatest benefit is that they can offer the desired sweet taste without the accompanying calories of caloric sweeteners.

Dr Lecerf also presented a number of clinical studies that show that people who choose low calorie foods and drinks do better food choices and follow a healthier diet, while further randomised clinical trials have shown that people who consume food and drinks with low calorie sweeteners achieve greater weight loss than those who don’t use them as part of a weight management effort. Concluding, Dr Lecerf, stated that “low calorie sweeteners can be a great tool in the hands of people who are obese or overweight, and in general to all individuals who want to limit their calorie and sugars intake and manage their weight, provided of course they include them in an overall balanced diet which is combined with physical activity.”

Taking the baton from Dr Lecerf, Ms Corinne Peirano, Dietitian – Nutritionist, talked about the benefits of low calorie sweeteners in the life of people with diabetes. In Europe, the prevalence of diabetes is expected to rise from 59,6 million in 2015 to more than 70 million people in 2040. Therefore, the need to educate people to lifestyle changes in order to prevent diabetes or manage the complications of diabetes is of the highest importance. Maintaining a healthy body weight, by adopting a balanced diet and following regular physical activity can help people with diabetes have a better glycemic control. Making specific reference to sweet taste, Ms Peirano stressed that “people with diabetes can still enjoy sweet taste and have the pleasure of sweetness without the calories and the side effects of sugar, by integrating foods and drinks with low calorie sweeteners in their diet”. Ms Peirano referred to study findings, which showed that low calorie sweeteners may help people with diabetes in following a dietary plan that can help them achieve better glycemic control in the long run, as evidence has concluded that low calorie sweeteners do not have an impact on blood glucose and insulin levels.

For more details from this session, including speakers’ biographies and abstracts of presentations, please click here.

We also invite you to read a very interesting interview with Dr Lecerf about the obesity epidemic and how we could win the battle against it by clicking here.