Low-Calorie Sweeteners Link to Diabetes Risk and Obesity Not Supported by Health Authorities

ATLANTA (September 17, 2014) — According to the Calorie Control Council, study findings published today in a Nature article (“Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota“) are at odds with leading health organizations and many other peer-reviewed published studies.  In contrast to the assertions made by the researchers of this study — which claim the use of low-calorie sweeteners increased diabetes and obesity risk — the overall evidence from studies on low-calorie sweeteners, including numerous human studies, show that these sweeteners do not have adverse effects on blood glucose control nor lead to an increased risk of obesity.

“The study suffers from small sample sizes, unrealistic sweetener applications and doses, and a dependence largely on rodent research. Findings should be interpreted with caution,” saidHaley Curtis Stevens, Ph. D. and President of the Calorie Control Council.

“The study published in Nature this week on artificial sweeteners goes against what we know as clinicians and what our patients tell us. The study tries to link low-calorie sweeteners with weight gain and ignores the extensive data that demonstrates that low-calorie sweeteners help us limit our calorie intake and help control our weight.” Debra R Judelson MD,  Scientific Advisor to the Calorie Control Council. (For Dr. Judelson’s full review of the Nature study on artificial sweeteners, click here.)

Leading health organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the American Heart Association (AHA), as well as numerous scientific studies agree that low-calorie sweeteners can be used as a safe tool to help manage calorie intake, which, in turn can be helpful for both weight management and diabetes management. Investigators of more than 40 studies in people, including a recent meta-analysis of clinical trials and other available evidence, have concluded that the use of low-calorie sweeteners does not lead to either an increased risk of obesity or diabetes. The safety of low-calorie sweeteners has been confirmed time and time again by scientists and regulatory agencies around the world, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Health Canada.

The study by Suez et al., which concluded that low-calorie sweeteners lead to glucose intolerance and disruption in gut microbiota which in turn may be associated with increased obesity and diabetes, suffers from several limitations that diminish the generalizability of the findings.

  • Consumption Levels — The study was conducted under circumstances not applicable to real life, with consumption levels at many times the typical intake.
  • Sample Size — With its small sample size in both the mice and human research, the study findings may not be applicable to all populations.
  • Study Period — The human trial was conducted over too short a period, with results inappropriately extrapolated and generalizations made despite the lack of confirmation from larger, longer studies with a more diverse population.
  • Lack of Evidence — In the mice study, subjects in the low-calorie sweetener groups did not gain weight, yet researchers concluded that the observed changes in microbiota or blood glucose response were related to obesity.
  • Lack of a Control Group — In the human study, there was no control group, which affects the generalizability of the results.
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.