ATLANTA (September 3, 2015) — Even though there is no research to support this notion, media reports (including a Good Morning America segment) allege that the consumption of low-calorie sweeteners cause people to crave sugar. In fact, single studies, reviews, and meta-analyses of published research show that low-calorie sweeteners can be used as a tool for weight loss and management and that they do not create cravings or lead people to eat more.
Had the television segment clearly distinguished between the effects of sweet taste versus the calories from different sweeteners, viewers could have benefitted. However, the portion of the segment that compares sweeteners includes incomplete evidence on sweet taste receptors and mentions “metabolic effects” without mention of well-established science. For example, it is well established that insulin levels change every time you eat something that contains calories and the effect is not simply because of changes in blood glucose/sugar. Only attributing insulin changes to sweet products is misleading and potentially hazardous, particularly to individuals with diabetes that must closely control both insulin and glucose.
In fact, the American Diabetes Association recommends using low-calorie sweeteners to help individuals manage sweet cravings with less calories and carbohydrates. The American Heart Association also recommends the use of these products to limit added sugars, and Public Health England’s Change4Life campaign recognizes the importance of feasible recommendations such as substitution products sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners for calorically sweetened products. “Cardiovascular health is affected by diabetes and obesity but people can make lifestyle changes to improve their health” says Debra Judelson, MD. The cardiologist has provided some helpful information about nutrition and heart health here, including the importance of consuming the right amount of calories.
Given the obesity epidemic and the concurrent rise in rates of diabetes, consumers should have available a wide variety of good tasting, reduced-calorie products as tools to assist them in addressing and managing their health goals. Low-calorie sweeteners can help people enjoy the foods and beverages they love while helping them to manage their weight.