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Scare mongering about low calorie foods and drinks is not in the public interest

17 September 2014: Allegations about foods and drinks with low calorie sweeteners published in a paper by Suez et al ignore the large body of science which demonstrates that low calorie alternatives help people to control their weight.

A thorough review and meta-analysis published by Miller & Perez earlier this year concludes that substituting "LCS (low calorie sweetened) options for the regular calorie versions results in modest weight loss and may be a useful dietary tool to improve compliance with weight-loss and weight management plans."

Furthermore, an earlier meta-analysis undertaken by de la Hunty, Gibson & Ashwell showed that replacing one regular soft drink per day with a low calorie soft drink sweetened with aspartame will lead to a weight loss of about 11 pounds over the course of a year.

Comments throughout the paper by Suez et al suggest that the authors are unfamiliar with the science which supports the safety and benefits of low calorie sweeteners. They also seem to be unaware that different sweeteners are metabolised differently.

Aspartame in particular is digested completely to its component parts, all of which occur in much greater quantities in other everyday foods and drinks. Aspartame cannot, therefore, have the adverse effects that Suez et al allege.

At a time when overweight and obesity are major challenges to health and to the public purse, scaremongering about safe and beneficial ingredients, which can help people to manage their weight, is not without consequences. Providing publicity for these allegations, and ignoring major reviews of gold-standard randomly controlled trials, like those by Miller & Perez or de la Hunty, Gibson & Ashwell, does the public a disservice.

References:

Suez et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature (2014)

Miller & Perez. Low-calorie sweeteners and body weight and composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2014)

de la Hunty, Gibson & Ashwell. A review of the effectiveness of aspartame in helping with weight control. Nutrition Bulletin (2006)