Sometimes science is like a seesaw. You put the all the evidence for and against your hypothesis on each side, and see how it weighs out. When it comes to low-calorie sweeteners and weight management, the weight of the evidence is definitely not as balanced as some headlines make it seem.
A new metanalysis, published in Nature’s International Journal of Obesity, adds to the already weighty body of evidence showing that low calorie sweeteners can be a useful tool for weight management. Researchers examined the results of over 100 studies on low-calorie sweeteners and weight management, and concluded that low-calorie sweetener consumption does not increase energy intake or body weight. On the contrary, the researchers found that swapping low-calorie sweeteners for excess sugar can lead to a decrease in energy intake and body weight, in both children and adults. It should be noted that the metanalysis included data from both human and animal studies. But of the human studies examined, several were randomized control trials (widely considered to be the “gold standard” of research design). Here are the results, in research-speak:
“The preponderance of evidence from all human randomized controlled trials indicates that LES [low-energy sweetener] do not increase EI [energy intake] or BW [body weight], whether compared with caloric or non-caloric (for example, water) control conditions. Overall, the balance of evidence indicates that use of LES in place of sugar, in children and adults, leads to reduced EI and BW, and possibly also when compared with water.”