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Artificial sweeteners no silver bullet for losing weight
July 9th, 2012
05:36 PM ET

Artificial sweeteners no silver bullet for losing weight

You've got a sugar craving but don't want to put on more pounds, so you turn to alternative sweeteners. Is that a good move?

A joint scientific statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association reveals that while non-nutritive sweeteners can be useful for limiting carbohydrates and limiting added sugars in the diet, the existing scientific evidence is inconclusive about whether this strategy works well in the long run for cutting calories, reducing dietary sugar and losing weight.

The non-nutritive sweeteners in the analysis include both artificial sweeteners and stevia, which is marketed as a natural sweetener. Because the study was not looking at the safety of sweeteners, they chose products that were regarded as generally safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The products include aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), acesulfame-K (Sweet One), saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), sucralose (Splenda), Neotame, and stevia (Truvia, PureVia, Sweet Leaf).

Previous research has shown that diets high in added sugar increase triglycerides and obesity, increasing risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. In 2009 the American Heart Association recommended that Americans cut back on added sugars in their diets, suggesting that women limit added sugar calories to 100 per day, and men to 150 per day.

While the AHA position on limiting added sugars in the diet was important, “the logical question was “how?”, said lead scientific statement author Christopher Gardner of Stanford University. He explained that his group was tasked with analyzing the available data on non-nutritive sweeteners in the diet and their role in cutting calories and added sugar.

“Smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners can be a tool for consumers, reducing calories, added sugars in the diet, and helping consumers maintain or reach a healthy weight that fights the risk factors for heart disease and diabetes,” but Gardner added that determining the benefits of non-nutritive sweeteners is a complex issue. For example, “if you choose a beverage sweetened with non-nutritive sweetener, replacing the 150 calories of a sugar sweetened drink, and then indulge in a 300 calorie cookie later in the day, you’re going to end up eating more calories than you subtracted.”

For consumers, Gardiner says there are three important points to take away from the scientific statement:

1. Compensation is the big issue: When people eliminate added sugars by choosing a beverage or food with non-nutritive sweeteners, the key to losing or maintaining weight is to not overcompensate by indulging in other foods that are high in calories. Non-nutritive sweeteners won’t benefit consumers who later compensate by eating other high calorie snacks.

2. Non-nutritive beverage and food products are different: Gardiner says that people don’t compensate the same way for non-nutritive beverages as they do with food containing non-nutritive sweeteners. “Here is the twist - when people eat foods with non-nutritive sweeteners, people tend to compensate more by eating more calories… it seems to be physiological,” he explained.

3. Non-nutritive sweeteners are a tool for eating fewer carbohydrates and added sugars, but it's important for consumers to keep an eye on the big picture. Gardiner notes that one of the best ways for limiting added sugar in the diet is to follow the American Heart Association’s dietary guidelines, which include
eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, fish, low-fat or non-fat dairy and lean meats without skin.


soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Tamika

    This was an great story thanks for sharing this information

    July 9, 2012 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anna

      When you go behind politics we see that type 2 diabetes has already been reversed. Dr Liu in Denmark revealed how to reverse diabetes without any medications. No one needs a drug to reverse type 2 diabetes.

      All of this information was taken from the Spirit Happy Diet people in Denmark. Diabetes has been reversed in over 10,000 people by using a specialized diabetes diet. The diet also reversed body fat in people trying to lose weight. Scientists showed food chemicals is the cause of almost all diabetes.

      They also showed how to reverse your own diabetes without medications.

      just google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET

      July 13, 2012 at 10:35 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Anna,
      I reversed type II by eating the right foods! My AiC and triglycerides fell to within normal ranges within 3 months of eating correctly. And that did NOT include artificial sweeteners! Another benefit was my high bolld pressure returned to normal ranges and serum cholesterol is in control.

      July 13, 2012 at 13:50 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Well Artificial sweeteners will always get a bad rap because people make up facts all the time Anna cite your facts what study show that sweetener chemicals cause type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance, over eating, genetics, bad diet all contribute.

      October 5, 2012 at 23:18 | Report abuse |
  2. Rick Dalbey

    I have heard studies like this repeated ad infinitum. How can they call this science? The problem is not the artificial sweetener. As advertised, instead of 100 calories, the product has 0 calories. The problem is that people have no discipline to stop eating. Don't blame the non-nutritive sweetener.

    July 9, 2012 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul

      Actually, there is AMPLE evidence through clinical study that shows artificial sweeteners CAUSE weight gain indirectly. Most artificial sweeteners trigger insulin response. This causes your body to look for the sugars to use the added insulin. Usually, you will get a craving for carbs or sweets to fill that craving. It all goes on int he background so you don't realize what is heppening. Real stevia doesn't trigger the insulin response. The response to extracted ribiana from stevia is not as well studied.

      July 13, 2012 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Sweeteners do not trigger an insulin response its a myth its only a perceived increase, because i see no cited study in this forum at all just know it all want a be dieticians. Who probably think vaccines cause Autism too.

      October 5, 2012 at 23:27 | Report abuse |
  3. Rfdevere

    Only in the Western world would academic people actually factor in the logic of 'If a diet coke saves 200kcals then I can eat a pastry and this might actually gain calories'
    Here's the findings from my own study from ten minutes of my logic.

    "if you consume calories, your body will use a high percentage of them calories and if you use a sweeter in moderation its probably better than high calorie alternatives"

    What is wrong with us?, years after the apollo missions we can't understand this?

    July 10, 2012 at 03:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. WhatNow

    I'll have a double meat cheeseburger with a large order of fries and a diet soda. We continue to search for a way to have our cake and eat it too. We want it all without the effort or perceived deprivation. It's the new American way; we want it all and we want it right now. The truth is we can have real sweets, only in moderation. Does anyone remember the day when juice was served at breakfast in a 6 ounce glass? Now, we give it to kids all day long because it's convenient to hand them those little cartons as opposed to pouring some milk or perhaps preparing a glass of water. We just don't want to work too hard for anything. Eating and drinking real food takes work.

    July 10, 2012 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lou

      better than a double meat cheeseburger, large fries and regular coke. I get what your aying, but a person who eats that is gonna eat that regardless, so whats wrong with saving some cals on that monster meal by getting diet. This whole article is just dumb to me.Dont try and discredit non-nutritive sweeteners by saying well if you eat more later then it doesnt matter, well it would be worse if it was a regular coke right? Do they think just cause someone has a reg coke that later they wont have that same crappy meal?

      July 10, 2012 at 10:42 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Lou, the difference is the vastly greater damage being done to your body by the artificial sweeteners!

      July 13, 2012 at 13:56 | Report abuse |
  5. Pete

    I'd rather have a nutella sandwich + diet pepsi than buttered toast + regular coke... Pick your poison, consume in moderation. :D

    July 10, 2012 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. j

    This article is not very well written. Also the information is nothing new. Artificial sweeteners are not the only answer, but it is better to have a diet coke with no sugar than a regular coke that is 100% sugar.

    July 10, 2012 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul

      Thats like saying it is better to die in a car crash than die in a fire. BOTH of them can do serious harm to your body.

      July 13, 2012 at 13:57 | Report abuse |
    • Bursali

      I was directed to your blog by Megan's Aunt Debbie. I have been up and down up to 110 lbs serveal times. I finally joined Food Addicts in Recovery Anon. and learned about sugar and white flour addiction. While eating properly my weight quickly drops (average 10lbs a mos) to where it belongs. I still struggle with the addiction and I know that one wrong bite starts the cycle and I am right back up again. What is remarkable to me however, is unlike other diets I have tried, I have been able to get back on the wagon with eating this way. Usually, once I break a diet's rules I cannot again achieve even the same small success I had with it the first try. With this, while I may be a grumpy shrew for the first week or so, after that it is a smooth ride. I know that it regulates my blood sugar. My energy level goes up, my skin gets nicer, and my over all health improves. The best part is that while it takes putting a bit more focus on planning and preparing meals, you can eat like this anywhere as it is so simple. I have never had a restaurant unable to easily accomodate my needs. The hardest part is remembering why you want and need to eat this way when you are slim and feeling great. I am very happy fo have found your site. AND ALWAYS READ THE LABELS they do try to sneak in sugar everywhere!

      October 14, 2012 at 01:53 | Report abuse |
  7. Sara

    Super toxic stuff. Drink at your own risk.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. carol

    I am more concerned about long-term effects of these fake sugars. Maybe using them sparingly will help keep diabetes at bay for awhile, but if a diabetes drug itself can cancer (http://www.newsinferno.com/pharmaceuticals/canadian-study-finds-actos-raises-bladder-cancer-risk-by-22-percent/39230) then how much safer can an artificial sweetner be?

    July 10, 2012 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul

      There is AMPLE evidence that artificial sweeteners do far more harm to you than sugar! But you won't hear that from the pharma companies that make them!

      July 13, 2012 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
    • Justine

      I just tried these for the first time yesterday. I bohugt them at my corner Walgreens. I LOVE THEM! YUM! I was wondering why I didnt think of this! It's like my two favorite things together,golden raisins and lemon! Oh yes and I am a 47 year old woman!!!

      October 11, 2012 at 22:21 | Report abuse |
    • LCC

      You should be more concerned with sugar. Learn what happens when you ingest it (not just table sugar but sugar found in bread, cereals, juice and more). The USDA says it is perfectly fine for men and women to consume well over a hundred pounds of (extra) sugar a year. Seriously.

      July 18, 2013 at 11:35 | Report abuse |
  9. L

    After having seen a ton of these studies, I'm starting to think that what really matters is that when we eat non-nutritive sweeteners, our tongues taste SWEET. Our brains sense sweet. And our bodies put out insulin ("store fat NOW!!"), because we're eating something sweet. So, no extra cookies may be needed. Sweet is sweet–and calories don't matter. What matters for weight gain is whether or not you're triggering insulin production...

    July 10, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LM

      L, you make a good point about the physiological response (insulin production) to consuming something "sweet" (quotations used to indicate artificial sweetening); however, the studies done to prove this yield very mixed results - some say certain artificial sweeteners can trigger an insulin response, others will not. I would assume if an insulin response was produced via consumption of artificial sweeteners, and there is no glucose consumed (or other sugars), blood glucose would decrease drastically as any levels would be sequestered by the insulin to fat and muscle cells. The effects of low blood glucose could create a sugar craving to replenish your energy supply.

      I see no harm in consuming an artificial sweetened beverage (like a coke) so long as you are aware how much you have eaten/when/will it trigger you to crave something else. I have been using Splenda in my coffee (with a splash of skim milk) that I drink alongside my breakfast to cut down on the sugar I would have regularly added. I avoid carbonated beverages, but when I do enjoy them I see no point to consume extra calories and often opt for diet or low-cal versions.

      I have not experienced adverse side effects, but I know several people who cannot consume specific ones unless they want headaches/diarrhea/upset stomaches/etc.

      July 10, 2012 at 15:17 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      There is one difference between the non-sugar sweeteners. Stevia is shown not to cause the insulin effect. The sweet response is as much chemical as it is psychological. The sweet from stevia seems to provide some kind of satisfaction absent from theother artificials.

      July 13, 2012 at 14:01 | Report abuse |
    • LCC

      Actually, these artificial sweeteners don't affect insulin levels and blood glucose remains stable. I have seen the results of many tests, including from drinking soda. We have to disassociate weight gain with the affect food has on our brains when we ingest them. If this were the case, I'd get really fat from eating meat as I have a similar reaction when eating meat.

      July 18, 2013 at 11:33 | Report abuse |
  10. Dye Diet

    Hurrah!... Finally in the mainstream media. People! Stop fooling yourself by believes in any kind of EASY CURE myths like "silver bullets" and "magic pills" altogether. Hard work and careful DIET AVOIDING freaking chemical FOOD ADDITIVES is the real but not quick solution to many problems including OBESITY. Take a look into the DyeDiet: Eat Food, Not Food Additives! Long term health effects of the Artificial Sweeteners are UNKNOWN. We are the nation exposed to the "Dye Diet". Even worse: We are the Nation that is the victim of "DOMESTIC FOOD TERRORISM". Please go to Dye Diet educational (non-profit) website to see how to escape being the damn victim. Stop the "dye diet"!

    July 10, 2012 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul

      The long term health effects of artificial food additives are WELL KNOWN but will not be widely reported until the main stream media gets out of bed with the big pharma suppliers of these poisons.

      July 13, 2012 at 14:03 | Report abuse |
  11. wesley

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    August 7, 2012 at 04:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. charlotte

    Yeah this is stupid.
    I am on a low-calorie diet and I drink lots of diet coke. GUESS WHAT, FOLKS?
    I don't compensate later on by consuming calories because of... GASP.. Self control!!
    what a novel idea! So diet coke does not make me fat, it SAVES me calories and makes me THIN!
    Imagine that!

    September 16, 2012 at 03:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. icons pack

    Excellent topic

    November 4, 2012 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Emily Dunn

    I don’t have sugar craving because I am diabetic. I use sweeteners that are good for people like me.

    -Emily Dunn

    February 20, 2013 at 06:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. ganha dinheiro

    http://www.patraoonline.com ganha dinheiro http://www.patraoonline.com/

    July 13, 2013 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.