Does low-energy sweetener consumption affect energy intake and body weight? A systematic review, including meta-analyses, of the evidence from human and animal studies

Peter Rogers, Pleunie S. Hogenkamp, Cees de Graaf, Suzanne Higgs, Anne Lluch, Andy Ness, Christopher Penfold, Rachel Perry, Peter Putz, MR Yeomans, DJ Mela

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

190 Citations (Scopus)
730 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

By reducing energy density, low-energy sweeteners (LES) might be expected to reduce energy intake (EI) and body weight (BW). To assess the totality of the evidence testing the null hypothesis that LES exposure (versus sugars or unsweetened alternatives) has no effect on EI or BW, we conducted a systematic review of relevant studies in animals and humans consuming LES with ad libitum access to food energy. In 62 of 90 animal studies exposure to LES did not affect or decreased BW. Of 28 reporting increased BW, 19 compared LES with glucose exposure using a specific ‘learning’ paradigm. Twelve prospective cohort studies in humans reported inconsistent associations between LES use and Body Mass Index (−0.002 kg/m2/year, 95%CI −0.009 to 0.005). Meta-analysis of short-term randomized controlled trials (RCTs, 129 comparisons) showed reduced total EI for LES- versus sugar-sweetened food or beverage consumption before an ad libitum meal (−94 kcal, 95%CI −122 to −66), with no difference versus water (−2 kcal, 95%CI −30 to 26). This was consistent with EI results from sustained intervention RCTs (10 comparisons). Meta-analysis of sustained intervention RCTs (4 weeks to 40 months) showed that consumption of LES versus sugar led to relatively reduced BW (nine comparisons; −1.35 kg, 95%CI −2.28 to −0.42), and a similar relative reduction in BW versus water (three comparisons; −1.24 kg, 95%CI −2.22 to −0.26). Most animal studies did not mimic LES consumption by humans, and reverse causation may influence the results of prospective cohort studies. The preponderance of evidence from all human RCTs indicates that LES do not increase EI or BW, whether compared with caloric or non-caloric (e.g., 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-394
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Volume40
Issue number3
Early online date10 Nov 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016

Structured keywords

  • CRICBristol
  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Nutrition and Behaviour

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