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Benefits of non-nutritive sweeteners

Substituting non-nutritive sweeteners for added sugars in beverages and other foods has the potential to help people reach and maintain a healthy body weight and help people with diabetes with glucose control, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA).1

Scientific evidence is limited and inconclusive about whether this strategy is effective in the long run for reducing calorie and added sugars consumption, the statement also says.

The AHA recommends that most women eat no more than 100 calories per day and men no more than 150 calories per day of added sugars. This recommendation is based on research that showed diets high in added sugars increase risk factors, such as obesity and triglycerides, for coronary heart disease.

“While they are not magic bullets, smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could help you reduce added sugars in your diet, therefore lowering the number of calories you eat. Reducing calories could help you attain and maintain a healthy body weight, and thereby lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes,” said Dr Christopher Gardner, (Stanford University, California). “But there are caveats”.

Research, to date, is inconclusive on whether using non-nutritive sweeteners to displace caloric sweeteners can lower risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease in the long run, said the statement authors.

“Determining the potential benefits from non-nutritive sweeteners is complicated and depends on where foods or drinks containing them fit within the context of everything you eat during the day,” Dr Gardner said.

“For example, if you choose a beverage sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners instead of a 150-calorie soft drink, but then reward yourself with a 300-calorie slice of cake or cookies later in the day, non-nutritive sweeteners are not going to help you control your weight because you added more calories to your day than you subtracted.”

“However, if you substitute the beverage with non-nutritive sweeteners for a 150-calorie sugar-sweetened soft drink, and don’t compensate with additional calories, that substitution could help you manage your weight because you would be eating fewer calories,” says Gardner.

“The use of non-nutritive sweeteners may be used in a carbohydrate-controlled food plan, to potentially reduce carbohydrate intake which may aid in weight management and diabetes control.” said Diane Reader, R.D., CDE, manager of professional training at the International Diabetes Center in Minneapolis, Minn.

The statement does not evaluate the safety of non-nutritive sweeteners, which is addressed by the US Food and Drug Administration. “For anyone trying to monitor or reduce their intake of calories or added sugars, the potential impact of choosing ‘diet products’ with non-nutritive sweeteners needs to be considered within the context of the overall diet,” Dr Gardner said.

“Strategies for reducing calories and added sugars also involves choosing foods which have no added sugars or non-nutritive sweeteners – such as vegetables, fruits, high-fiber whole grains, and non or low-fat dairy.”

References

1. Gardner C, Wylie-Rosett J, Gidding SS, et al. Nonnutritive sweeteners: current use and health perspectives. Circulation 2012;126http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0b013e31825c42ee/

Published on: July 24, 2012

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