In the U.S., Hispanics are facing a growing problem with weight and obesity. This is a topic that hits home for me because I’m Hispanic. For many people, replacing added sugars in beverages and foods with low calorie sweeteners is the first step in the fight to lose weight. In her recent blog post, registered dietitian Sylvia Meléndez-Klinger, MS, RD, LDN, asks the question, “Can low calorie sweeteners help Hispanics lose weight?” (more…)
It feels like every month, some new study is out about diet soda and low calorie sweeteners. The question is, does diet soda really help with weight loss and diabetes? There are plenty of quality studies out there showing how people have used diet soda and low calorie sweeteners as a tool for controlling weight and diabetes.
For instance, the results from two human clinical trials (which are used to show cause-and-effect relationships and are considered the gold-standard for quality research) show weight loss benefits of diet drinks.
Study Shows Diet Beverage Drinkers Averaged 13 Pound Weight Loss
In a 12-week study published in the journal Obesity, subjects who drank diet beverages lost, on average, 13 pounds, compared to 9 pounds lost among the water-only drinkers. The researchers also found that the diet beverage drinkers reported feeling less hungry, despite both groups following the same calorie-controlled diet regimen.
Study Finds Diet Soda Drinkers Lose More Than Five Percent of Body Weight Over Six Months
A study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found subjects who drank diet soda or water were more than twice as likely to lose more than 5 percent of their body weight in a six-month study.
If diet soda and sweeteners really work, why are we still debating this?
The problem is that observational studies (which only show associations and can’t prove that diet beverages cause weight gain) have reported that people who drink diet beverages are more likely to be overweight. The truth, which obesity researchers continue to remind us of, is that people who are overweight use more “diet” foods and beverages to help them lose weight, compared to normal-weight individuals. Which means that they’re actively trying to lose weight and are using sweeteners to cut down on excess sugar in their diets.
Health experts realize this, but unfortunately, observational studies make for juicer news stories and click bait.
So, are diet soda and low calorie sweeteners really able to help with weight loss and diabetes?
The answer is yes, diet soda and low calorie sweeteners can help us cut calories in our diet, which when combined with exercise, leads to weight loss. They also help people with diabetes control the amount of sugar in their diet, while still allowing them to enjoy some of their favorite foods.
Great news for anyone who uses low-calorie sweeteners like sucralose, aka Splenda, to cut down on daily sugar consumption! New research confirms sweeteners do not cause you to crave more sweet tasting foods in your diet!
Conducted at the Sensory Evaluation Center at Penn State, the study found that low-calorie sweeteners didn’t have greater sweet sensations, or cause cravings, when compared to sugar.
The researchers concluded that, “NNS [non-nutritive sweeteners] are not super-stimuli with regard to perceived sweetness intensity. That is, although NNS may have greater binding affinity to sweet receptors, this does not imply NNS over stimulate sweet receptors as has been implied previously.”
If you are one of the many people using low calorie sweeteners in your food and beverages, then you’re in good company! New research shows that consumers of no, low and reduced-calorie sweeteners eat better and are more physically active.
The study indicated that low-calorie sweetener consumers not only had a better quality diet, but were also more physically active and less likely to smoke or drink alcohol.
“In addition to the benefits conferred by the reduction of energy from added sugars, LCS (low-calorie sweetener) consumption may be a marker for other positive health behaviors and lifestyles,” said Head Researcher Dr. Adam Drewnowski.
Conducted by a team at the University of Washington, the study assessed the eating and health habits of over 22,000 consumers using a decade’s worth of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
The finding suggests that using low-calorie alternatives is one of many ways to live a healthier lifestyle and manage your weight.
“The results found here are consistent with previous other studies that have shown that no, low, and reduced-calorie sweeteners can be tools to help achieve a healthy lifestyle,” said Calorie Control Council President Haley Stevens, Ph. D
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Great news for anyone watching their weight!
American beverage companies announced this week they have partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, (founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation) to fight against the ongoing obesity epidemic. They have set a goal to reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally 20% by 2025.
Former President Bill Clinton had this to say about the initiative:
“I am excited about the potential of this voluntary commitment by the beverage industry. It can be a critical step in our ongoing fight against obesity. Our work with beverage companies to reduce the number of calories shipped to schools by 90 percent demonstrates the power of creative cooperation. We look forward to continuing to work together to achieve the goals outlined in this commitment.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about a third of adults and nearly one-fifth of children in the U.S. qualify as obese (PDF). Cutting calories from beverages through smaller portions and more no calorie choices will go a long way to getting those numbers down.
In May 2006, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation worked with these same companies to establish the Alliance School Beverage Guidelines, remove full-calorie soft drinks and provide for lower-calorie, nutritious beverage options in age-appropriate portions. An independent analysis of the Alliance School Beverage Guidelines published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2012 showed there had been a 90 percent reduction in calories from beverages shipped to schools between the 2004-2010 school years.
Similarly, an independent, third-party evaluator, in conjunction with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, will track progress and interim benchmarks toward this new initiative. I’m excited to see what happens here!