A Study of a Decade of Data Finds Low-Calorie Sweetener Consumers Have Better Diets, Exercise More

ATLANTA (November 6, 2014) — Research from the University of Washington examining data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of more than 22,000 people has found that consumers of foods and beverages made with no, low, and reduced-calorie sweeteners have better quality diets and are more likely to be physically active.

The NHANES is conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Health Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) every two years. In the study, researchers used a decade’s worth of NHANES data (from 1999-2008) to determine consumption of foods and drinks made with no, low, and reduced-calorie sweeteners. Diet quality was measured using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), a measuring tool developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) which looks at individual compliance to dietary recommendations. Physical activity, as well as other health behaviors such as tobacco and alcohol use, was self-reported by NHANES participants.

Results of the study showed that consumers of low-calorie sweeteners were more likely to have a higher HEI score and engage in physical activity and were less likely to smoke or consume solid fats, added sugar and alcohol. An infographic from the University of Washington summarizing some of the findings is here.

Head researcher Dr. Adam Drewnowski said, “The present analyzes suggest that LCS [low-calorie sweetener] consumers may differ in several, previously unobserved, ways from non-consumers in terms of their health behaviors. In particular, LCS consumers were more physically active and had higher HEI scores. In addition to the benefits conferred by the reduction of energy from added sugars, LCS consumption may be a marker for other positive health behaviors and lifestyles.” The study was published in Nutrients. The work was funded by a gift in aid of research to the Center for Public Health and Nutrition of the University of Washington by the Calorie Control Council.

“This study shows a strong correlation between no, low, and reduced-calorie sweetener consumption and healthy lifestyles,” said Haley Stevens, Ph.D., President of the Calorie Control Council. “The results found here are consistent with previous other studies that have shown that no, low, and reduced-calorie sweeteners can be tools to help achieve a healthy lifestyle.”

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faq2Do you have questions about low-calorie sweeteners? Want to learn more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle? You asked and we listened. Our resident Registered Dietitians answered the most popular questions about low-calorie sweeteners.