Low-Calorie Sweeteners Are an Effective Weight Management Tool

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

News Backgrounder from the IFIC Foundation

Despite the opinion article currently in the news, many well-done studies have demonstrated that low-calorie sweeteners provide a safe and effective choice for consumers looking to manage their calorie, carbohydrate, and/or sugar intake, and may be helpful in managing weight when consumed as part of a healthful diet.

In an opinion article, “Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements,” by Dr. Susan Swithers, published yesterday in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Swithers asserts that consumption of low-calorie sweeteners may lead to a variety of negative health outcomes by weakening our response to sweet tastes, which in turn may lead to weight gain.

It is important to note that this article is an opinion piece and provides no new data to consider when evaluating the safety and efficacy of low-calorie sweeteners. The vast majority of the research on low-calorie sweeteners shows they are safe for consumption in foods and beverages, and when consumed in place of caloric sweeteners and as part of a healthful diet, can aid in weight loss or weight management. Low-calorie sweeteners contribute negligible calories to the diet and, as such, may result in decreased calorie intake, which is one key to successful weight loss. The few studies indicating otherwise have been limited in their application due to issues with methodology, sample size, and/or the use of laboratory animals as subjects as opposed to humans.

It is important to consider the type of study and whether its conclusions can show cause-and-effect, or if other factors could have been at play. Many of the studies referenced in the Swithers article lack the ability to demonstrate a causal relationship between low-calorie sweeteners and weight gain. While interesting and certain to gain headline space, they are merely speculative and should not be used alone to inform broad dietary guidance. The Harvard School of Public Health and IFIC Foundation joint publication, “Improving Public Understanding: Guidelines for Communicating Emerging Science on Nutrition, Food Safety, and Health” provides useful criteria to consider when a new study comes out, especially if its results differ significantly from what the totality of research has shown, to determine if the study stands up to the high standards of credible research.

Many people, such as those with diabetes or who are overweight, have benefited from low-calorie sweeteners. They provide sweet options that do not contribute calories, sugars, or carbohydrates. They have been safely consumed for several decades and are an effective tool that should be part of a consumer’s tool box when developing a healthful eating and exercise plan.

For more science-based information, including references to comprehensive studies, visit the following IFIC Foundation resources: