Information on The Dr. Oz Show which aired in January 2012 makes false claims
Doctor Oz purposed that low-calorie sweeteners “burn out your taste buds so they’re quickly searching for more sugar.”(1) However, it is important to note that while high-intensity sweeteners are sweeter than sugar, less is used to achieve a comparable level of sweetness. By FDA regulation, tabletop packets of low-calorie sweeteners are equally as sweet at two teaspoons of sugar. Additionally, studies with adults, as well as infants, have demonstrated that the pleasant response to sweet is an innate, reflex reaction rather than a learned response.
Dr. Oz alleged, “And, since artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than natural sugars, they can reset your taste buds, causing you to crave them more.” However, research has shown that people who use low-calorie sweeteners may actually have better quality diets than people who do not. One study found that people using low-calorie, sugar-free foods and beverages ate less total and saturated fat, cholesterol, energy, and added sugars, while consuming significantly higher amounts of vitamins and minerals from their foods.(2) Dr. Sigman-Grant, author of one
study on the subject stated, “Those using products containing low-calorie sweeteners were more aware of the nutrients they were eating and were more likely to eat leafy-green vegetables, fruit and yogurt.” Thus, the researchers found that those using low-calorie sweeteners were not only eating fewer calories overall, but were also eating more healthfully.
On his show, Dr. Oz suggested, “Researchers believe that reduced calorie sweeteners like saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose can cause your appetite to increase so you end up consuming more, putting you at risk for weight gain and diabetes.” However, the only studies that have shown a link between low-calorie sweeteners and increased body weight have been epidemiological studies that were not designed to show cause and effect. People may be using low-calorie sweeteners to help them lose or maintain their weight, not the other way around. In fact, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reported:
Moderate evidence shows that using non-caloric sweeteners will affect energy intake only if they are substituted for higher calorie foods and beverages. A few observational studies reported that individuals who use non-caloric sweeteners are more likely to gain weight or be heavier. This does not mean that non-caloric sweeteners cause weight gain rather that they are more likely to be consumed by overweight and obese individuals.(3)
The vast majority of scientific evidence shows that low-calorie sweeteners do not stimulate appetite or food intake, nor do they cause weight gain. Dr. Rolls, author of a review study on low-calorie sweeteners said, “If the individual uses the consumption of a low-calorie food as an excuse to eat a high-calorie food, or if the individual is not actively trying to restrict intake, daily energy intake may remain unchanged. However, if intense sweeteners are part of a weight-control program, they could aid calorie control by providing palatable foods with reduced energy. It needs to be stressed that there are no data suggesting that consumption of foods and drinks with intense sweeteners promotes food intake and weight gain in dieters.”(4)
Americans do not consume “24 pounds of them [artificial sweeteners] every year” as Dr. Oz suggests. The average American consumes less than one ounce of low-calorie sweeteners a year, according to data from the Chemical Economics Handbook Marketing Research Report.(5)
Research continues to reaffirm that low-calorie sweeteners can help with blood sugar control. A study released this month in the journal Nutrition Research found that sucralose did not raise blood sugar levels, nor increased insulin resistance, in the subjects using it.(6) Further, any weight loss, including weight lose achieved through the use of low-calorie sweeteners, can improve blood sugar control and blood pressure.
The use of low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar can result in products significantly reduced in calories when compared with their traditional counterparts. In light of the current obesity epidemic, it is important that consumers have available a wide variety of good tasting, reduced-calorie products as tools to assist to them in addressing their calorie goals.