Skeptics, however, will say that "in a caloric deficit, and in comparison to regular beverages", which was the scenario in the Sørensen study, "everything will work" - a valid argument, I have to admit. After all, the alleged insulinogenic effects said people ascribe to non-nutritive sweeteners would be more harmful during phases of attempted weight maintenance; phases as they've been investigated in a recent follow up to a previous study by Peters et al. (2015).To be more precise, Peters' study was a year-long trial designed to compare the effects of beverages sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) to water as part of a behavioral weight management program consisting of 12 weeks of active weight loss (results previously published in Peters et al. 2014) and 40 weeks of weight maintenance (results now published in Peters, et al. 2016).
|Figure 1: Weight and waist loss during the initial 12-week weight loss phase of the study (Peters. 2014).|
loss phase of this trial were in line with those of the previously cited study by Sørensen et al. (2014) - with the important difference, however, that Sørensen et al. compared non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) to sugar-sweetened beverages, while Peters et al. found that the NNS group experienced greater weight loss during the 12 weeks of active weight loss, as well as more pronounced reductions in waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides, even if the control group consumed plain water group (Peters. 2014 | see Figure 1 for weight and waist data).
|Figure 2: Consuming NNSs decreased the hunger of the subjects during the 12-week weight loss phase (Peters. 2014).|
|Saccharin may be the unhealthy exception to the "inert sweetener" rule.|
|Figure 3: Body weight (in kg) after 52-week (weight maintenance phase | left) and percent body weight regained during the weight maintenance phase (grey = water; black = NNS | right; Peters. 2015).|
"[...] are important as there continues to be uncertainty about the benefit of NNS for weight management based largely on observational studies showing associations between NNS consumption, obesity and weight gain." (Peters. 2015).This is particularly true in view of the fact that the data clearly opposes the often voiced claim that NNS promote obesity by interfering with normal mechanisms of energy balance.
Sponsorship? Yes, the study was funded by the American Beverage Association, but (a) the American Beverage Association was not involved in the design, conduct, interpretation, or manuscript preparation of this study and a third-party organization was hired at the PIs’ request to audit data at both clinical sites to check for the accuracy and integrity of the data. Since the latter are furthermore not really open to intepretation, the "sponsorship argument" is a weak one when it comes to defending the initially defined weight loss myth. In addition, it must be said that it is unrealistic to assume that you could do a 1-year study with more than 300 subjects without external funding - especially, if the research question is not on the TOP-list of the government.This claim, however, is - as far as experimental evidence is concerned - based exclusively on animal studies; studies that conflict with both, the study at hand and the few other published long-term human trials that evaluated NNS for weight loss (Blackburn. 1997; Tate. 2012):
|Figure 4: Tate et al. observed that drinking diet beverages (DB) promotes weight loss over water (WA) or paying more attention (attention control | AC) to what you eat (Tate. 2012).|
- In a prospective randomized trial, Blackburn et al. found that people with obesity in a weight loss program using NNS food and beverage products lost more weight and maintained a greater weight loss over 2 years compared to subjects not using NNS (Blackburn. 1997).
- Tate et al. (2012) conducted a 6-month randomized trial in people with obesity and found greater weight loss over 6 months and a greater likelihood of achieving a 5% weight loss in participants drinking beverages with NNS compared with participants in an attention control group. There was no difference in the likelihood of achieving a 5% weight loss between participants in the water group versus the control or between the water group versus the NNS group.
And if we take a look at the totality of research, it becomes obvious that even observational data, some of which is often used to support the claim that artificial / non-nutritive sweeteners were among the driving motors of the obesity pandemic, indicate that artificially sweetened beverages and foods are valuable weight loss tools (Phelan. 2009). Among those of the subjects listed in the National Weight Control Registry who maintained a weight loss of at least 30 pounds for at least 1 year, for example, the vast majority of 78% says that artificially sweetened products has helped them tremendously to achieve and maintain their weight loss (Catenacci. 2014).References:
- Blackburn, George L., et al. "The effect of aspartame as part of a multidisciplinary weight-control program on short-and long-term control of body weight." The American journal of clinical nutrition 65.2 (1997): 409-418.
- Catenacci, Victoria A., et al. "Low/No calorie sweetened beverage consumption in the National Weight Control Registry." Obesity 22.10 (2014): 2244-2251.
- Peters, John C., et al. "The effects of water and non‐nutritive sweetened beverages on weight loss during a 12‐week weight loss treatment program." Obesity 22.6 (2014): 1415-1421.
- Phelan, Suzanne, et al. "Use of artificial sweeteners and fat-modified foods in weight loss maintainers and always-normal weight individuals." International Journal of Obesity 33.10 (2009): 1183-1190.
- Sørensen, Lone B., et al. "Sucrose compared with artificial sweeteners: a clinical intervention study of effects on energy intake, appetite, and energy expenditure after 10 wk of supplementation in overweight subjects." The American journal of clinical nutrition (2014): ajcn-081554.
- Tate, Deborah F., et al. "Replacing caloric beverages with water or diet beverages for weight loss in adults: main results of the Choose Healthy Options Consciously Everyday (CHOICE) randomized clinical trial." The American journal of clinical nutrition 95.3 (2012): 555-563.