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Do Low-Calorie Sweeteners Actually Help You Lose Weight?

The holiday season often serves up a smorgasbord of sweets, which can bump up our sugar intakes and our waistlines. So, instead of using regular sugar, some people turn to low-calorie sweeteners (LCS), like saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, and stevia, to limit calories from sweet indulgences. But do low-calorie sweeteners really help you cut calories and achieve a slimmer silhouette? Research has shown mixed results. Now, for the first time, a group of researchers have analyzed all of the evidence and found that, overall, low-calorie sweeteners are indeed associated with lower calorie intakes and reduced body weight compared with other sugars. The review was published in the International Journal of Obesity  and included data from 12 long-term observational studies, 77 short- and long-term human intervention studies, and 90 animal studies. All of the studies included participants who had consumed low-calorie sweeteners and had an otherwise unrestricted diet. Here is what they discovered:

  • A meta-analysis of single test comparison trials found that people given a LCS-sweetened food or drink prior to a meal consumed an average of 94 calories less during the entire meal (which included the pre-meal test food or drink) than people given a sugar-sweetened food or drink prior to their meal.
  • A meta-analysis of studies lasting 4 weeks or longer found that people consuming LCS-sweetened food and drink either lost more weight or gained less weight than people consuming sugar-sweetened fare, with the difference being, on average, about 3 lbs.
  • Consuming LCS-sweetened drinks instead of water was also associated with a similar reduction in weight (2.7 lbs). This indicates that low-calorie sweeteners may not increase appetite, as previously thought.
  • Results from animal studies were not similar to those from human studies; instead the animal studies found that consuming LCS did not affect body weight or calorie intake.

This review indicates that using low-calorie sweeteners may be beneficial for people trying to lose weight. It’s important to note that some of the researchers received grant money from organizations in the sugar and low-calorie sweetener industry, and that two of the researchers involved in this study work in that industry, so more research from unaffiliated parties is needed. In addition, low-calorie sweeteners may have unwanted physical side effects and some have been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. So, if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth without having to use added sugars, eating fruit can be a great way to do just that: enjoy them on their own or use fruits like dates, figs, or apples to sweeten baked goodies.

Source: Journal of Obesity

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