Study Debunks Myth: Sweeteners Don’t Increase Appetite, Help Reduce Blood Sugar

A groundbreaking study has found that replacing sugar with artificial and natural sweeteners in foods does not increase appetite and can even help reduce blood sugar levels. The double-blind randomized controlled trial, considered the gold standard in scientific investigation, provides strong evidence that sweeteners and sweetness enhancers do not negatively impact appetite and can be beneficial for reducing sugar intake.

The study, led by the University of Leeds in collaboration with the Rhône-Alpes Research Center for Human Nutrition, is part of the SWEET consortium, a group of 29 European research, consumer, and industry partners working to develop and review evidence on the long-term benefits and potential risks of switching to sweeteners and sweetness enhancers in the context of public health, safety, obesity, and sustainability.

Catherine Gibbons, Associate Professor in the University of Leeds’ School of Psychology and lead author of the study, emphasized the importance of the findings, stating, “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.”

The study included 53 adult men and women with overweight or obesity who consumed biscuits containing either sugar, natural sugar substitute Stevia, or artificial sweetener Neotame over three two-week consumption periods. The participants’ appetite, food preferences, and levels of glucose, insulin, and appetite-related hormones were measured on the first and last day of each period.

The results showed that consuming biscuits with sweeteners produced similar reductions in appetite sensations and appetite-related hormone responses as sugary biscuits. Additionally, insulin and blood sugar levels were reduced after consuming the sweetener-containing biscuits compared to the sugar-containing ones.

Graham Finlayson, Professor of Psychobiology in the University of Leeds’ School of Psychology and principal investigator, highlighted the significance of the study, saying, “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’s findings contradict previous reports linking sweetener consumption with negative health outcomes, such as impaired glycaemic response, toxicological damage to DNA, and increased risk of heart attack and stroke. These reports have contributed to confusion among the general public and those at risk of metabolic diseases regarding the safety of sweeteners and sweetness enhancers.

Anne Raben, Professor at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and joint co-ordinator of the SWEET project, emphasized the usefulness of sweeteners in managing appetite, energy intake, and weight, stating, “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.”

The study’s results provide essential evidence supporting the use of sweeteners and sweetness enhancers as a valuable tool in reducing sugar consumption and improving the nutritional profile of commercial foods and beverages. As obesity-related metabolic diseases continue to be a major public health concern, these findings offer a promising solution for those looking to manage their weight and blood sugar levels without sacrificing taste or increasing cravings for sweet foods.

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