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Low-Calorie Sweeteners Can Help with Weight Loss

Some recent reports have questioned the weight loss and caloric control benefits of low-calorie sweeteners. A new study, however, supports the idea that low-calorie sweeteners can significantly reduce a person’s caloric intake and the tendency to overeat and thus help with weight loss.

Despite ongoing concerns and debates about any harm artificial and other low-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame and stevia may cause, millions of people turn to these products as table sweeteners and to the low-calorie and/or low-sugar foods that have them as ingredients as a way to control caloric intake and their weight.

Some concerns about low-calorie sweeteners are that individuals who use them may compensate for the lower caloric intake by eating more of other foods, and that they may feel less satisfied after consuming sugar substitutes and feel hungry, which could lead them to overeat.

In a new study, published in the journal Appetite, researchers gave study participants (both healthy and overweight adults) a pre-meal that contained either sucrose (table sugar), aspartame, or stevia (a low-calorie herbal sweetener). Participants who received the aspartame or stevia consumed significantly fewer calories overall, did not overeat, and did not say they had increased feelings of hunger.

The results of this study support the findings of a 2009 meta-analysis in which investigators evaluated 224 studies. In that report, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers concluded that while there were concerns that including non-nutritive sweeteners in the diet promoted an increase in caloric intake and contributed to obesity, “most of the purported mechanisms by which this occurs are not supported by the available evidence.”

Beth Hubrich, a dietitian with the Calorie Control Council, noted that when low-calorie sweeteners are “used as part of an overall healthy diet,” both as a table sweetener and in low-calorie products, they “can be beneficial tools in helping people control caloric intake and weight.”

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