Recent research by Drs. Drewnowski and Rehm of the University of Washington found that American adults that use low-calorie sweeteners reported intentions to lose or maintain weight during the previous year.
The study “The use of low-calorie sweeteners is associated with self-reported prior intent to lose weight in a representative sample of US adults” was based on data from 22,231 adults participating in the 1999–2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Low-calorie sweetener intake was reported in one 24-hour dietary recall while data on intent to lose or maintain weight during the prior 12 months and 10-year weight history were obtained from the weight history questionnaire.
The authors reported 30.1% of adults in this study consumed LCS, with more adults consuming LCS beverages (22.1%) than either tabletop LCS (11.4%) or LCS foods (4.6%). As previously reported, a relationship between obesity and LCS intake was identified and was significant for LCS regardless of whether it was in beverages, tabletop, or foods. Individuals who tried to lose weight during the past year were 64% more likely to consume any type of LCS product after adjusting for age group, gender and race/ethnicity. Individuals who tried to lose weight were also 2.37 times as likely to consume two or more types of LCS products. Furthermore, the association between intent to lose or maintain weight and LCS use was stronger for men as compared with women, although overall, women were more likely to report weight loss intent (44.2% vs 27.9). The authors also report that the association of LCS use and self-reported intent to lose weight during the previous year was only partially mediated by differences in BMI.
As expected, after adjustment for age, gender, race/ethnicity, family income, smoking and BMI, LCS use was associated with higher diabetes prevalence (13.9% vs 4.0% for non-consumers). While this study cannot determine what is behind this association, it is possible that individuals in this study are aware that “Foods and drinks that use artificial sweeteners are another option that may help curb your cravings for something sweet.” and may be using LCS to enjoy sweet-tasting foods and beverages while managing their diabetes.
Drs. Drewnowski and Rehm concluded that prospective studies which carefully measure past weight history and weight management efforts would better assess the impact of LCS use on weight on free-living populations. Examples of these types of studies that have already reported findings include a 12-week study that showed subjective feelings of hunger were less in individuals participating in a comprehensive behavioral weight loss program when they consumed LCS than those consuming water. A year-long study also recently showed that people that already consumed beverages sweetened with LCS had greater weight loss and weight maintenance during a structured weight loss program.