By: Robyn Flipse, MS, RD Date: 3/11/11
Being overweight or obese is no longer a private matter discussed behind closed doors with your physician. The problem has become one of national concern that is openly debated across every major media channel and is responsible for menu changes occurring everywhere from school cafeterias to fast-food restaurants. The energy imbalance of our nation also appeared as a central issue in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), shifting attention away from eating advice to creating healthy diets for a healthy body weight. Now more than ever, we need to use every tool at our disposal to make this a reality for more Americans.
Calories Do Count!
The DGA clearly state there is little evidence that any individual food or beverage uniquely impacts body weight and no particular dietary plan is better than any other for reducing weight. The key is to create a calorie deficit, which the DGA describe as the “essential dietary factor relevant to body weight,” and can be produced through any combination of increased activity and decreased caloric intake.
Getting More for Less
In order to create a calorie deficit without sacrificing important nutrients, the DGA encourage the selection of foods and beverages that have high nutrient and low caloric density. Suggestions include filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables and eating more high-fiber whole grains, beans and peas while only using solid fats and added sugars to flavor foods in small amounts. So far so good.
Amidst all this talk of calorie deficits and energy balance in the DGA, there is little mention of how low and no-calorie sweeteners can reduce the caloric content of what you eat and drink or their role making nutrient-dense foods and beverages taste better with fewer calories.
Yet, the Evidence Analysis Library (EAL) of the American Dietetic Association found non-nutritive sweeteners have no negative impact on appetite, hunger and food intake and may assist energy balance and meeting dietary goals. A recent literature review by Mattes and Popkin also concluded, “if nonnutritive sweeteners are used as substitutes for higher energy yielding sweeteners, they have the potential to aid in weight management.”
When looking for ways to reduce or eliminate calories from the foods and beverages people enjoy every day, low and no-calorie sweeteners are a valuable tool. Whether replacing sugar in a cup of coffee, sprinkled on oatmeal, stirred into yogurt or sweetening a diet soda, the calorie savings do count towards achieving energy balance. And given the urgency of the problem before us, it is of critical importance that we use every resource available to combat overweight and obesity.