Episode 84. Lies and Misinformation about Artificial Sweeteners

Nov 27, 2017 | 0 comments

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Show Notes

Clinical research debunks some popular thought that artificial sweeteners contribute to increased appetite and weight gain.

Scott discusses one study published in a 2016 issue of the International Journal of Obesity, Rogers et al, “Does low-energy sweetener consumption affect energy intake and body weight? A systematic review, including meta-analyses, of the evidence from human and animal studies”.


Main Conclusions from the Study


  • In the study that includes 205 references to other clinical research, results show that consumption of artificial sweeteners in place of sugar is consistently found to reduce short-term energy intake.
  • Artificial sweeteners referenced acesulfame-K, aspartame, saccharin, stevia and sucralose are consumed throughout the world.
  • Among the lies and misinformation are quotes like this one from a fitness industry celeb, “artificial sweeteners trick our bodies so that our internal ability to count calories is thrown way off.” Our bodies do not count calories. The clinical evidence says “exposure to sweetness itself was not a significant stimulus for later [energy intake.]”
  • The study’s results refute the idea that artificial sweeteners contribute to increased weight gain or hunger.

“The preponderance of evidence from all human randomized controlled trials indicates that [artificial sweeteners] do not increase [energy intake] or [body weight], whether compared with caloric or non-caloric (for example, water) control conditions. Overall, the balance of evidence indicates that use of LES [Low Energy Sweeteners -or artificial sweeteners] in place of sugar, in children and adults, leads to reduced EI and BW, and possibly also when compared with water.”

  • The researchers included animal studies in their analysis. Most of the studies on animals, particularly rats, included much larger doses than humans would consume, and found that artificial sweeteners did not increase bodyweight.
  • Most of the studies cited…reported no statistically significant effects of artificial sweeteners on body weight. Studies using higher doses of artificial sweeteners found statistically significant decreases in body weight.
  • Study participants who consumed LES- artificially sweetened products compared with sugar- sweetened products showed either greater weight loss or less weight gain.
  • Researchers also compared artificial sweetened drinks to water. Energy intake did not differ versus water, artificial sweeteners versus unsweetened product or artificial sweeteners versus nothing. In fact, consumption of artificially-sweetened beverages also reduced body weight relative to consumption of water.

“We found a considerable weight of evidence in favor of consumption of [artificial sweeteners] in place of sugar as helpful in reducing relative [energy intake] and [body weight], with no evidence from the many acute and sustained intervention studies in humans that [artificial sweetener] increase [energy intake].”

  • The analysis concludes that substituting artificial sweeteners for sugar, can help reduce energy intake.



International Journal of Obesity (2016) 40, 381–394
© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited


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