Author: David Carrillo Treviño (Master´s in Biotechnology and Bioengineering 2015-2016).
Commented Reference: Bellisle F. Intense Sweeteners, Appetite for the sweet taste, and relationship to weight management. Curr Obes Rep (2015) 4: 106-110.
Obesity is considered to be one of the most important pandemics of modern society, present in 19% of US citizens. This alarming information has induced first-world countries to adopt measures to halt this increasing threat. One of the most controversial tools has been to use low-energy sugar substitutes. Certain studies have shown that the consumption of these sweeteners can induce the consumption of high-energy sugars, while developing related pathologies such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, the result would be the contrary of that desired, making the consumer desire more sweet foods, making weight control more difficult.
Therefore, two points of view exist. On one hand, the additives help the consumers to control their weight, while on the other hand, their incorrect use can make the individual desire more sweet foods and increase their weight. There are many studies related to these additives. A number of them try to resolve these doubts, in order to make the consumers feel more ensured about what they are purchasing.
These studies are very different from one another. The observational studies, such as those performed by Klem ML´s group in the University Pittsburgh, analyse all the receipts of the cash registers of supermarkets, in order to establish a purchasing pattern of the consumers. In this study, the consumers that purchase low-energy sweeteners generally follow more healthy diets, purchasing more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat foods. Therefore, the consumer of these types of foods is more conscious of their weight and tries to maintain or reduce it.
Another study, performed by Piernas C et al, in the University of North Carolina, consisted in a clinical trial with a large number of patients. The study divided the volunteers in two groups, those that regularly took low-energy sweetened beverages and those that didn’t. In the study, the volunteers that did not regularly take low-energy sweeteners were asked to switch to these kinds of beverages, while those that regularly did were asked to not take these kinds of beverages during the study. Weight changes were studied, although no food restriction was performed. The results showed that both groups presented similar body fat losses after 6 months, with no significant differences among them, demonstrating that the use of these sweeteners does not induce a higher consumption of sweet foods.
These studies, as well as many others, seem to determine that the consumption of low-energy sweeteners does not imply an increased desire for sweet foods, and therefore are adequate for their use in weight control. However, these substances must still be studied, and the consumer be regularly informed of the scientific advances in this field. The sanitary authorities of each corresponding country should inform the general public of how to use these substances in a healthy and balanced diet.