THE ROLE OF ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS IN PREVENTING OVERWEIGHT
Overweight, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are demanding public health issues. Nutrition and physical activity are important contributors in preventing overweight. This article addresses artificial sweeteners, especially non-nutritive beverages, their role in our diet and significance in preventing the epidemic of overweight and obesity.
The article is based on non-systematically searches on PubMed, Cochrane, International Journal of Obesity and the Lancet. Reports from WHO, World Cancer Research Fund, statistics and nationwide dietary surveys carried out in Norway were used.
Both statistics and national representative dietary surveys show that the consumption of added sugar has increased over the last decades. Intake estimations show that the mean percentage of energy (E%) deriving from added sugar is higher than recommended. The prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased substantially in Norway the last two decades. The increase is a global trend. Epidemiological and experimental evidence indicate that an increase in the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain and obesity. The majority of the published studies on artificial sweeteners and body weight indicate that they do not lead to an increase in the energy intake and body weight.
American Dietetic Association concludes that artificial sweeteners potentially can serve as substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages in weight controlling purposes.
The Food and Drug Administration regard aspartame, acesulfame-k, sucralose, saccharine and neotame as safe when intake is below Acceptable Daily Intake. It has been argued that artificial sweeteners stimulate appetite but most studies do not confirm such an effect. Further research is needed to understand the effects of sweeteners on appetite regulation.
The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages generates excess health costs. Public health strategies to reduce tobacco and alcohol use have been effective. Similar strategies, both structural and educational, should be emphasized to reduce intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and energy-dense foods.