News Backgrounder: Low-Calorie Sweeteners & Weight Management: New Discussions, but Facts Still Show Effectiveness

Contact Info: 

Contact Matt Raymond or Jania Matthews at 202-296-6540 or media@foodinsight.org

News Backgrounder from the IFIC Foundation
Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Weight

In light of increased attention to the issue of low-calorie sweeteners and weight gain, the International Food Information Council Foundation would like to offer the following resources:

Key Points on Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Weight

  • Low-calorie sweeteners provide a safe and effective choice for consumers who are looking to manage their calorie, carbohydrate, and/or sugar intake.
  • They have been safely consumed for several decades and are an effective weight management tool that should be part of a consumer’s menu of choices when developing a healthful eating and exercise plan.
  • The vast majority of clinical research on low-calorie sweeteners shows they can aid in weight loss or weight management. By consuming low-calorie sweeteners in place of regular sweeteners, people can reduce their calorie intake, which is a critical component for weight loss.
  • Many people have benefited from low-calorie sweeteners, including those with diabetes who must control their carb and sugar intake, and those who are overweight and are looking to improve their health through weight loss.
  • Low-calorie sweeteners are not a magic bullet and are but one tool for people looking to manage their weight. It is important to consume a balanced diet rich in nutrients and that does not exceed individual calorie needs, as well as to get regular physical activity, in order to achieve a healthful lifestyle.
  • While a recent opinion article (Swithers, July 2013) asserted that consuming low-calorie sweeteners may weaken humans’ response to sweet taste, possibly leading to weight gain, this article did not contain any new research and the studies cited in the article do not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between low-calorie sweeteners and weight gain.
  • The idea that humans feel less full after consuming foods and beverages containing low-calorie sweeteners does not take into account that many foods and beverages containing low-calorie sweeteners also contain calories from other ingredients.
  • Low-calorie sweeteners are commonly used in beverages. Research on beverage consumption in general has found people have greater difficulty judging the calorie content of beverages; therefore, it is important to consider factors other than low-calorie sweeteners when evaluating the possible causes of weight gain.

Expert quote in response to the opinion article by Dr. Susan Swithers:

“The studies [Dr. Swithers] used and that she referred to…that “took 15, 20 years” to do were population studies and these show ASSOCIATIONS, which are quite different from CAUSE-AND-EFFECT. It is probably not appropriate for Dr. Swithers to assume there are “metabolic derangements” resulting from use of these sweeteners – unless this is an opinion.  These sweeteners are tools, not cures. They were never meant to be anything else…There IS research to show that people who use them actually have better diets and better weight outcomes.  It is not clear why Dr. Swithers chose to exclude these studies.”

                                          -   Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics,
                                              Albert Einstein College of Medicine

If you would like to speak to an expert about low-calorie sweeteners and weight management, please contact Matt Raymond (raymond@ific.org) or Jania Matthews (matthews@ific.org) or call 202-296-6540.

IFIC Foundation Resources on Low-Calorie Sweeteners:

The International Food Information Council Foundation is dedicated to the mission of effectively communicating science-based information on health, food safety and nutrition for the public good. The IFIC Foundation is supported primarily by the broad-based food, beverage and agricultural industries. Visit http://www.foodinsight.org.