Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Healthy Eating Patterns
Recent study reveals that drinking low-calorie sweetened beverages does not increase intake of sugary foods
The review was based on an analysis of detailed dietary records from 1,590 adults who participated in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS), the most authoritative source of dietary habits and nutrient intake of the UK population. Food intake data was entered by trained diet coders, and data was analyzed using an established foods databank at the noted UK MRC Human Nutrition Research Unit at Cambridge University. From these results, the researchers concluded that non-consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages (NC) and consumers of low-calorie beverages (LCB) tend to have higher-quality diets compared to either consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) or consumers of both SSB and LCB. The data suggest that LCB consumers eat more fruit, vegetables and fish, and eat less meat, meat products, chips, white bread and sugar, than consumers of SSB.
In addition, the researchers determined that the NC and LCB consumers "do not compensate for sugar or energy deficits by consuming more sugary foods." Consumers of LCB had a significantly lower energy intake (1719 kcal/day) compared to consumers of SSB (1958 kcal/day) and consumers of both SSB and LCB (1986 kcal/day). LCB consumers also had a mean total energy intake (1719 kcal/ day) that was almost identical to the total energy intake of non-consumers (1718 kcal/day).
This analysis supports previous studies which have shown that consumption of diet drinks, when substituted for caloric beverages, is associated with lower calorie and lower added sugar intake overall (as opposed to perpetuating a desire for sugary foods) and, therefore, can be a useful tool for weight management. The authors of this latest study explained, "LCB provide a palatable source of water with minimal sugar and energy content. Their caloric benefits derive from their role as substitutes for SSB and meta-analyses have demonstrated that replacing SSB with LCB leads to reduced caloric intake and modest weight loss."
A 2014 review of the 1999-2008 data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey also found that consumption of low-calorie sweeteners is related to higher diet quality and overall healthier lifestyle. The analysis, conducted by Drewnowski and Rehm, found that use of low-calorie sweeteners, including the consumption of sugar-free beverages, was associated with higher healthy eating index scores, less smoking and more physical activity. Similarly, research by Sigman-Grant and Hsieh found that people who use low-calorie, sugar-free foods and beverages have better quality diets.
"In light of the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans' recommendation to adopt healthy eating patterns, this recent study provides further support that low-calorie sweeteners can be a useful tool in dietary strategies to lower excess weight, and their use can be associated with improved diet quality," said Maureen Conway, MBA, MA, RD, LDN, FAND, Director of Nutrition and Professional Affairs for Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products.
"Since summer is a time when sugary beverages are heavily consumed, beverages made with low-calorie sweeteners, such as SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, are a great way to reduce excess calorie intake from added sugars that could contribute to weight gain," Conway added.