A recent study published in Appetite, shows that when compared to water, artificial sweeteners (low calorie sweeteners) (LCS) do not affect appetite, energy intake or food choices.
For several years, it has been believed commonly (but falsely), that the replacement of sugar by LCS results in several maladaptive physiologic changes including uncoupling of the LCS sweet taste and dietary energy intake leading to higher energy and food intake. This has been addressed in several studies showing no short-term effects of LCS on hunger, appetite and energy intake. In addition, the effect of LCS on body weight change has also been studied and suggests that in place of sugar, LCS is helpful to reduce energy intake and that LCS beverages “appeared” neutral relative to water or even beneficial.
This study was designed to test those beliefs in comparison to water, which has only been compared in a few studies. Here, 166 healthy adults without obesity (BMI 19-28) were studied in 4 sessions. This cohort was composed of LCS-naïve persons who did not consume LCS on a regular basis and the tests were performed before and after a 5-week habituation period to LCS.
It was a 2-arm study comparing plain water vs. LCS lemonade. Study duration was 9 weeks with 4 experimental 2-day sessions. In the first session, all consumed water with meals on lab day 1 and under free living conditions on day 2. During week 1, they consumed 1 bottle of water with the 3 main meals (330ml). During sessions 2 and 3 (weeks 2 and 3) participants drank 330ml of LCS lemonade or water with half getting water first and the other half LCS lemonade with a switch the next week.
After week 3, participants were randomized to 2 arms. The experimental group drank 2 cans of LCS lemonade daily with main meals for the next 5 weeks. The control group drank water and were instructed to avoid LCS beverages and foods. At the end of the study, they were again studied as in weeks 1-3.
Conclusion: LCS beverages (artificially sweetened beverages) do not increase total energy intake when compared to water. Artificial sweeteners, also, when used in place of sugar in adults without obesity, lead to reduced appetite for sweet tasting foods and sugars. Also, this study shows no adverse response occurs over time (here, 5 weeks of continuous use) after the use of artificial sweeteners.