Using non-nutritive sweeteners instead of added sugars may help people reach and maintain a healthy weight, but there is limited evidence about whether this is effective for reducing calories and sugars in the long term, say two major US medical associations.
The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) published a joint statement on non-nutritive sweeteners in the AHA’s journal Circulation and the ADA’s journal Diabetes Care this week. It examines the available scientific literature dealing with non-nutritive sweetener consumption as it relates to consumer attitudes, consumption patterns, appetite, hunger and energy intake, body weight, and heart disease.
Associate professor of medicine at Stanford University of California Christopher Gardner said in an AHA statement: “Smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could help you reduce added sugars in your diet, therefore lowering the number of calories you eat. Reducing calories could help you attain and maintain a healthy body weight, and thereby lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes. But there are caveats.”
The AHA recommends that no more than 100 calories a day should come from added sugars for women, and no more than 150 calories a day for men. The recommendation is based on evidence that overconsumption of added sugars is linked to several risk factors for heart disease, including obesity and elevated triglyceride levels.
However, the ADA and AHA said that there is not enough evidence available to conclude that substituting non-nutritive sweeteners for sugars is effective in the long term for reducing calories, maintaining a healthy body weight, benefitting appetite, or reducing any of the other risk factors for heart disease or diabetes.
“Determining the potential benefits from non-nutritive sweeteners is complicated and depends on where foods or drinks containing them fit within the context of everything you eat during the day,” Gardner said.
In preparing their statement, the two associations analyzed studies of aspartame, acesulfame-K, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, and stevia.
The statement did not examine the safety of non-nutritive sweeteners, which is the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration.
The full scientific statement is available online here .