Cross-over studies underestimate energy compensation: The example of sucrose-versus sucralose-containing drinks

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The vast majority of preload-test-meal studies that have investigated the effects on energy intake of disguised nutrient or other food/drink ingredient manipulations have used a cross-over design. We argue that this design may underestimate the effect of the manipulation due to carry-over effects. To test this we conducted comparable cross-over (n = 69) and parallel-groups (n = 48) studies testing the effects of sucrose versus low-calorie sweetener (sucralose) in a drink preload on test-meal energy intake. The parallel-groups study included a baseline day in which only the test meal was consumed. Energy intake in that meal was used to control for individual differences in energy intake in the analysis of the effects of sucrose versus sucralose on energy intake on the test day. Consistent with our prediction, the effect of consuming sucrose on subsequent energy intake was greater when measured in the parallel-groups study than in the cross-over study (respectively 64% versus 36% compensation for the 162 kcal difference in energy content of the sucrose and sucralose drinks). We also included a water comparison group in the parallel-groups study (n = 24) and found that test-meal energy intake did not differ significantly between the water and sucralose conditions. Together, these results confirm that consumption of sucrose in a drink reduces subsequent energy intake, but by less than the energy content of the drink, whilst drink sweetness does not increase food energy intake. Crucially, though, the studies demonstrate that study design affects estimated energy compensation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-405
Number of pages8
Early online date24 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Nutrition and Behaviour


  • Sugar
  • Low-calorie sweetener
  • Drink
  • Food
  • Satiety
  • Compensation


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