Artificial Sweeteners: Do they help Weight Loss? Research Review

Weight loss, fat loss, diet, artificial sweeteners
Can using Artificial Sweeteners make weight loss easier?

Losing weight isn't easy. Some people can struggle with their weight for years and if you're reading this right now, you're probably one of those people. With that said, anything that can help make losing weight a little easier is definitely worth giving a try.

 

Can Artificial Sweeteners help with Weight Loss?

Artificial sweeteners (AS) are one of those "potential" aids to a weight-loss plan. They act as virtually calorie free substitutes for calorific sweeteners like sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, which can make up a decent amount of calories in modern diets. Replacing something with a lot of calories for something with no calories seems like a good idea if weight loss is your goal.

 

OVERVIEW: In this research review, we're going to look see if artificial sweeteners can really help with weight-loss when compared to just drinking water.

The research paper I’m going to review, by Peters et al. is titled “The effects of water and non-nutritive sweetened beverages on weight loss during a 12-week weight loss treatment program.” (2014) {1}.

 

As always, if don't have a lot of time you can just skip past all the sciencey stuff here to the “What does this all mean” section at the end. 

 

As for those of you who are still with me, let’s take a closer look at the study:

 

The Experiment

  • There were 308 volunteers (men & women) for the experiment. All were either overweight or obese and already regularly drank artificially sweetened drinks.
  • They were divided, randomly into 2 groups: half were in a Non-Nutritive Sweetener (NNS) (artificial sweeteners) group and half were in a Water group.
  • Volunteers in both diet groups attended weekly support meetings during the experiment to learn and discuss different weight-loss techniques (like portion control, reading food labels, increasing exercise etc.)
  • Individuals in each group were given daily calorie targets based on their own basal metabolic rate.
  • They were also given advice on how to increase their level of moderate to high intensity exercise.
  • Participants received weekly coupons which they could use to get either water of AS-sweetened beverages.
  • The weight-loss phase of the experiment lasted 12 weeks.

 

Differences Between Groups

Artificial Sweetener Group

  • Drank a minimum of 700ml of AS-sweetened drinks per day
  • Could also drink as much water as they liked

Water Group

  • Drank a minimum of 700ml of water per day
  • Could not drink AS-sweetened drinks or add AS to drinks like coffee
  • Could eat foods sweetened with AS

The Results

So, were there huge differences between the groups at the end of the 12 weeks?

 

Differences, yes! HUGE differences, no!

 

Both groups lost weight, had smaller waist measurements and improved their cholesterol and blood glucose levels (all things you'd expect to improve if someone loses weight). 

 

However, compared to the Water group, the Artificial Sweetener group:

  • lost significantly more weight (almost 2 kg more)
  • had a greater amount of people lose 5% or more of their bodyweight
  • had a significantly greater drop in total & LDL cholesterol (probably due to the extra weight loss)
  • had a greater decrease in hunger (the water group actually showed increased hunger after the 12 weeks)

 

Do artificial sweeteners help with weight loss, diet, fat loss
Percent of participants who lost 5% or more body weight (NNS = Non-Nutritive Sweetener)

What I liked about this study

  1. They used a lot of volunteers which really gives us a pretty decent idea of how well this study applies to the general population.
  2. It wasn’t designed to have a severe calorie deficit nor extreme amounts of exercise so it better imitates a more long term, sustainable diet.
  3. The weekly support meetings would probably help to motivate the participants to stick to their diets

 

What could have been better

  1. All the volunteers used AS-sweetened drinks before the trial so the water group was the one that would have felt the greatest challenge in that they could no longer drink something they were used to drinking (this might explain why their hunger increased).

So, what does this all mean?

Basically, what this study shows is that artificial sweeteners can be a useful addition to a weight loss program. From the experiment we can't tell exactly why the AS group lost more weight but we can speculate that because the felt less hunger than the Water group, maybe they were able to stick to their diets better and ate less food.

 

Importantly, one of the goals of the study was to see if the AS would slow down weight loss, which they didn't

 

So I can use Artificial Sweeteners in my Diet?

 

Artificial sweeteners have gotten a pretty bad reputation in the short time they've been around; from people claiming they don't help with weight loss to others claiming they actually encourage weight gain and even claims that they're bad for your health (I haven;t touched on the health implications because I think that topic deserves its own article).

 

To be honest, I genuinely think that their bad image is mostly due to being called "ARTIFICIAL" sweeteners. Unfortunately, the public tend to consider the word "artificial" as being unnatural or bad. I used to do the same.

 

In reality, plenty of great things area artificial; many drugs that save millions of lives each year, the screen you're reading this article on, artificially-flavored protein powder. See? Not everything artificial is bad. This though, I think I prefer the name "Zero Calorie Sweeteners".

 

My Personal Experience with Sweeteners

 

I don't drink many diet drinks myself. When I was an overweight teenager, one of the biggest steps I took was giving up sweetened soft drinks. I went completely cold turkey, switched to water and didn't look back. Now, sweetened drinks are just too sweet for me and I don't miss them at all.

 

In recent years I've started using AS in different diet foods and they really have made a huge difference in how easy it is for me to stick to my diet and not feel restricted. I have artificially sweetened protein powders, protein bars and sugar-free jellies and other diet products that help to satisfy my sweet tooth and just make eating a healthier diet a whole lot more pleasant.

 

Male Dieting Easier

 

If you're overweight and find yourself constantly craving something to tame your sweet tooth, maybe artificial sweeteners could help you to stay away from high-calorie sweets (be they drinks or food).

 

At the end of the day, the most important factor for success on any diet is consitency. If a couple of bottles a day of a diet drink helps you stick to your diet in the long term, then that's a tool you should definitely think of using.

 

Eat well folks.

Bibliography

  1. Peters JC, Wyatt HR, Foster GD, Pan Z, Wojtanowski AC, Vander Veur SS, et al. The effects of water and non-nutritive sweetened beverages on weight loss during a 12-week weight loss treatment program. Obesity. 2014;22(6):1415–21. 

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Amanda (Wednesday, 31 January 2024 10:52)

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