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Low calorie sweeteners - the new functional foods?

This review of the data on the role of low calorie sweeteners in the maintaining and reducing weight through reduced energy intake, concludes that they are a useful aid to reducing the risk of type-2 diabetes and CVD compared with sugar. Most of the studies use aspartame as the low calorie sweetener.

Here's what the authors say:

Artificial sweeteners: a place in the field of functional foods?
Focus on obesity and related metabolic disorders

Raben A., Richelsen, B.
Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 15(6): 597-604, Nov. 2012

Key Points:

The literature indicates that a relatively large intake of sugars, especially in the form of liquid sugar, can result in increased energy intake and body weight.

Sucrose and fructose intake has also been linked to the development of lipid dysregulation, visceral adiposity, hypertension, inflammation, metabolic syndrome, type-2 diabetes, and clinical coronary heart disease.

On the contrary, data from recent longer term intervention studies point toward a beneficial effect of artificial sweeteners on energy intake, body weight, liver fat, fasting and post-prandial glycemia, insulinemia, and lipidemia compared with sugars.

Artificial sweeteners, especially in beverages, can be a useful aid to maintain and reduce energy intake and body weight and decrease type-2 diabetes ad CVD compared with sugars.

Concerning beverages, artificial sweeteners are from a metabolic point of view a more healthy choice than sugar, but water is still the primary choice.

Purpose of review
Artificial sweeteners can be a helpful tool to reduce energy intake and body weight and thereby the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Considering the prevailing (obesity and diabetes) epidemic, this can, therefore, be an alternative to natural, calorie-containing sweeteners. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current evidence on the effect of artificial sweeteners on body weight, appetite, and risk markers for diabetes and CVD in humans.

Summary
Artificial sweeteners, especially in beverages, ca be a useful aid to maintain reduced energy intake and body weight and decrease risk of type-2 diabetes and CVD compared with sugars. However, confirmative long-term intervention trials are still needed.