1. Home
  2. News
  3. Nutrition

Are artificial sweeteners or natural, calorie-free sweeteners better for losing weight?

Daily calorie intake is the same either way in the short-term, researchers say

Photo (c) highwaystarz - Fotolia
Consumers who want to lose weight or just control their blood sugar may often be plagued by decisions on what they should be eating or drinking at any given time. When it comes to certain beverages, the decision becomes even trickier.

Some people believe that indulging in a beverage with artificial sweeteners can help reduce appetite and keep them from overeating at their next meal. Others say that choosing a drink with natural or non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) is better because it cuts down on overall sugar consumption.

So, which option is actually better for you? One study suggests that arguing for one over the other is a moot point in the short-term. Researchers from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore tested four beverages and found that daily energy intake, glucose levels, and insulin levels the blood was the same no matter what. The reason: what calories we avoid by drinking certain beverages is made up by the foods we eat throughout the day.

Energy intake is initially the same

The researchers set out to test four different kinds of beverages for their short-term study: one containing sucrose (sugar), one containing aspartame (an NNS), one made with a plant-derived NNS (Stevia), and one made with monk fruit (Mogroside V).

Thirty healthy male participants were asked to randomly consume one of the four beverages on each day of the trial period, while adhering to a similar daily schedule; each person woke each day and ate a standardized breakfast, drank one test beverage at mid-morning, and ate a lunchtime meal where they were asked to eat until comfortably full and write out a food diary.

After each round, the researchers recorded participants’ blood glucose and insulin levels. Lead author Siew Ling Tey said that the results were “surprising” because the amount of total daily energy intake was the same across all four beverages, meaning that participants consumed the same number of calories regardless of what they drank.

Short-term vs. long-term weight loss

Tey attributes this to participants reducing or increasing meal intake depending on the beverage they consumed earlier. Those that drank the sucrose-sweetened drink tended to reduce the amount of food they ate at lunch, while those who drank an NNS-sweetened beverage tended to eat more at meals.

“The energy ‘saved’ from replacing sugar with non-nutritive sweetener was fully compensated for at subsequent meals in the current study, hence no difference in total daily energy intake was found between the four treatments,” said Tey.

However, the researchers point out that longer-term studies have found that using NNS sweeteners for significant periods of time eventually reduces overall energy intake and body weight. The takeaway, then, may be that quick weight loss is not decided by the type of sweetened beverage we consume, but it should be a consideration when making a long-term diet plan.

The full study has been published in the International Journal of Obesity.