Dr. Keri Peterson
Medical Advisor to the Calorie Control Council
It has been reported in the media that ingesting foods and beverages sweetened with low calorie sweeteners can cause you to crave sugary foods and potentially gain weight. There are a variety of mechanisms postulated to account for this phenomenon. One is that your taste buds are over stimulated by the intensity of sweetness found in low calorie sweeteners so it would take a lot more sugar to satisfy them. Another is that your body doesn’t feel satiated by low calorie sweeteners so you overeat instead. Because of the attention garnered from these widespread theories, many people are hesitant to ingest low calorie sweeteners for fear that somehow they will become sugar seeking and gain weight.
The medical literature simply does not support this notion. Over the past few decades there have been extensive reviews of numerous studies investigating whether consumption of low calorie sweeteners enhances a sweet-tooth. In fact, on the contrary, an array of studies have found that utilizing low calorie sweeteners in lieu of sugar containing beverages reduces caloric intake and facilitates weight loss.
These reviews have evaluated many different study designs including Observational, Laboratory and the gold standard Random Controlled Trials. They have failed to display evidence suggesting that sweeteners enhance appetite or increase desire for sugary foods. For example, one RCT replaced sugar sweetened beverages with either low calorie sweetened beverages or water. Both groups decreased their intake of sugar containing beverages. Even more compelling is that the low calorie sweetened beverage group decreased their dessert and sweet food intake more than in the water group.
Ingesting low calorie sweetened foods and beverages is a successful means of reducing overall calorie intake without causing an insatiable appetite for sugar. So if a client has their doubts, feel confident in reassuring them that low and reduced calorie sweeteners don’t lead to a sweet-tooth.
Dr. Peterson is a medical contributor and columnist for Women’s Health and a frequent guest on NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News and CNN. Based in New York City, Dr. Peterson has been in private practice since 1999 and holds appointments at Lenox Hill Hospital and Mount Sinai Medical Center. With a BA from Cornell University and a Medical Degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, she completed post-graduate training in Internal Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center and is board certified in Internal Medicine. Dr. Peterson is a member of the American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association, and serves as medical advisor for the Calorie Control Council.