Extensive Research Demonstrates that Low-Calorie Sweeteners Provide the Same Feeling of Fullness as Sugar and Do Not Increase Appetite

A new comprehensive review concludes that low-calorie sweeteners including sucralose do not increase appetite or food intake or impact blood sugar levels.

The review, accepted for publication in the British Journal of Nutrition, reviewed data regarding sugar substitutes, taste receptors, glucose absorption and insulin release.* The researchers analyzed a number of studies to evaluate the role of low-calorie sweeteners on hunger and blood glucose levels as well as to determine any potential link to the secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1).

The appetite-suppressing hormone is released from the digestive tract when a person eats as a “fullness” signal to the brain, curbing appetite and calorie intake. Although some scientists previously reported a synergistic effect between sucralose and glucose, which triggered the release of GLP-1 in short-term studies involving animal and human cell lines, as well as genetically-modified laboratory mice, the new report found no evidence to support that claim.

Andrew G. Renwick, co-author of the study and a professor in the School of Medicine at University of Southampton in England, noted that “low-energy sweeteners do not have any unwanted effects on appetite or subsequent food intake, insulin or blood glucose levels, glucose homeostasis or blood pressure.”

The report’s findings are in line with a recent study conducted by Australian researchers, who also determined that consumption of sucralose and sucralose-sweetened products does not affect blood sugar levels or gut hormones linked to hunger. Results from short-term animal studies that indicated sucralose could modify the absorption of glucose in the intestine were not observed when the sweetener was fed to healthy human subjects, said the scientists from the University of Adelaide and the Royal Adelaide Hospital. In addition, a recent review by National Institute of Health experts failed to find a link between intakes of sugar substitutes and metabolic changes in children.

“All the evidence indicates that low energy sweeteners provide a sweet taste without significant energy and without any effect on appetite,” Dr. Renwick concluded in the latest study.

Another new study, published in the August issue of the journal Appetite, demonstrates that low-calorie sweeteners provide the same feeling of fullness as sugar and subjects did not compensate by eating more at mealtimes. In fact, subjects who received the sugar substitutes consumed significantly fewer calories and there was no difference in hunger levels despite having fewer calories overall. The research was conducted by Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Overall, the vast majority of scientific literature confirms the safety and benefits of using low-calorie sweeteners and low-calorie products for weight control and weight loss. For example, a team of researchers from Harvard spent two years investigating how the addition of a low-calorie sweetener to a multidisciplinary weight control program would affect obese women. They found the low-calorie sweetener not only helped with weight loss, but also with long-term weight maintenance.

Another study, published a few years ago in Pediatrics, discovered that overweight children could prevent further weight gain simply by walking another 2,000 steps a day and reducing their intake by 100 calories. This caloric reduction was accomplished by replacing full calorie foods and beverages with foods and beverages containing sucralose (also known as Splenda®). In addition, a study published in the International Journal of Obesity last fall determined that the use of artificially-sweetened beverages may be an important weight control strategy among WLM [weight loss maintainers].

“When used as part of an overall healthy diet, low-calorie sweeteners including sucralose, and light products containing them, can be beneficial tools in helping people control caloric intake and weight.” said Beth Hubrich, a registered dietitian with the Calorie Control Council, an international trade association.

* Renwick, A. et al. Sweet-taste receptors, low-energy sweeteners, glucose absorption and insulin release. British Journal of Nutrition advance online publication 10 July 2010; doi: 10.1017/S0007114510002540. For the British Journal of Nutrition abstract, visit: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=7835532

Ma, J et al. Effect of the artificial sweetener, sucralose, on small intestinal glucose absorption in healthy human subjects. British Journal of Nutrition advance online publication 27 April 2010; doi: 10.1017/S0007114510001327. For the British Journal of Nutrition abstract, visit: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=7631164

Brown, R et al. Artificial Sweeteners: A systematic review of metabolic effects in youth. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, doi: 10.3109/17477160903497027. For the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity abstract, visit: http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/17477160903497027

Anton, S et al. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite: 55 (2010) 37-43. [Abstract]

Rodearmel, S. (2007). Small Changes in Dietary Sugar and Physical Activity as an Approach to Preventing Excessive Weight Gain: The America on the Move Family Study.  Pediatrics. 120, 4. For the Pediatrics abstract, visit: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/120/4/e869

Phelan, S et al. Use of artificial sweeteners and fat-modified foods in weight loss maintainers and always-normal weight individuals. International Journal of Obesity advance online publication 28 July 2009; doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.147.
For the International Journal of Obesity abstract, visit: http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ijo2009147a.html