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Sweet News for Sugar Substitutes

Sweeteners Don’t Build Larger Appetites

Sweet News for Sugar Substitutes

By John Salak –

Artificial and natural sweeteners just received some tasty support from Britain’s University of Leeds. Apparently, using these sweeteners instead of sugar does not make people hungrier as many suspect. The switch may also help some people reduce their blood sugar levels.

The university’s double-blind randomized controlled trial specifically found that these sweeteners had the same impact on appetite sensations and appetite-related hormone responses as sugary foods. They also help lower blood sugar levels, which could be critically important for people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The university’s results are somewhat controversial due to conflicting reports over the potential of artificial sweeteners to increase users’ appetites. The report also lines up with growing evidence that counters numerous claims that these sweeteners pose a raft of potential health risks. 

The Mayo Clinic, for example, recently cited various reports by health agencies that stressed that sugar substitutes do not cause serious health problems. These now-debunked reports claimed that sugar substitutes were linked to a higher risk of cancer, strokes, heart disease and increased mortality.

The British research team stressed its study meets the gold standard level of proof in scientific investigation and provides strong evidence that sweeteners and sweetness enhancers do not negatively impact appetite and are beneficial for reducing sugar intake. Ultimately, these findings have major health consequences. 

“Reducing sugar consumption has become a key public health target in the fight to reduce the rising burden of obesity-related metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes,” noted lead author Dr. Catherine Gibbons, an associate professor at the university. “Simply restricting sugar from foods without substitution may negatively impact its taste or increase sweet cravings, resulting in difficulties sticking to a low-sugar diet. Replacing sugars with sweeteners and sweetness enhancers in food products is one of the most widely used dietary and food manufacturing strategies to reduce sugar intake and improve the nutritional profile of commercial foods and beverages.” 

The finding’s ability to undermine the misplaced myths about the dangers of sugar substitutes will hopefully encourage their use and spur their ability to help fight diseases, according to principal investigator Graham Finlayson, a professor of psychobiology at Leeds.

 “The use of sweeteners and sweetness enhancers has received a lot of negative attention, including high profile publications linking their consumption with impaired glycemic response, toxicological damage to DNA and increased risk of heart attack and stroke. These reports contribute to the current befuddlement concerning the safety of sweeteners and sweetness enhancers among the general public and especially people at risk of metabolic diseases. 

“Our study provides crucial evidence supporting the day-to-day use of sweeteners and sweetness enhancers for body weight and blood sugar control.” 

The study is purportedly the first of its kind. It specifically looked at the effects of consuming biscuits containing either sugar or two types of food sweetener: natural sugar substitute Stevia or artificial sweetener Neotame on 53 overweight adult men and women. 

The trial consisted of three two-week consumption periods, where participants consumed biscuits with either fruit filling containing sugar or sugar substitutes. Each period was separated by a break of 14-21 days. Day 1 and day 14 of the consumption periods took place in the lab.

Participants were instructed to arrive in the lab after an overnight fast, a blood sample was taken to establish baseline levels of glucose, insulin and appetite-related hormones. They were also asked to rate their appetite and food preferences. After consuming the biscuits, they were asked to rate how full they felt over several hours. Glucose and insulin levels were measured, as were ghrelin, glucagon-like peptide 1 and pancreatic polypeptide—hormones associated with the consumption of food.

The results from the two sweetener types showed no differences in appetite or endocrine responses compared to sugar, but insulin levels measured over two hours after eating were reduced, as were blood sugar levels.

The results underscored the value of these sugar substitutes, added project joint coordinator Professor Anne Raben of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. 

“The findings show that sweeteners are a helpful tool to reduce intake of added sugar without leading to a compensatory increase in appetite or energy intake, thereby supporting the usefulness of sweeteners for appetite, energy and weight management.” 





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