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Low-cal sweeteners do not lead to over-eating: Study

By Stephen Daniells , 22-Mar-2010

Consuming low-calorie sweetened beverages may not lead to eating more as compensation for the lower calorie load, according to the results of a new human trial.

Food intakes at lunch or dinner did not increase after consuming a low-calorie appetiser sweetened with stevia or aspartame, compared to sucrose-sweetened pre-load, report scientists from the Institute on Aging at the University of Florida.

“This is the first study to directly test the effects of the natural sweetener, stevia, on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels in humans,” state the researchers in the journal Appetite.

The study adds to the ongoing debate over the role of low-calorie foods and obesity, and go some way to vindicating the growing low-calorie and low fat formulations being offered by food manufacturers as weight conscious consumers seek waistline-friendly versions of their favourite foods.

Obesity and the related health issues are ever-increasing problems in Europe. In 2006, 30 per cent of European children were estimated to be overweight. The prevalence of obesity in the UK has more than doubled in the last 25 years.

Study details

Led by Stephen Anton, the Florida-based researchers recruited 19 lean people and 12 obese people aged between 18 and 50. The participants were required to complete three separate food test days during which they received either low-calorie pre-loads (stevia or aspartame) or a sucrose pre-load before lunch and dinner. The stevia and aspartame pre-loads provided 290 kcal, while the sucrose pre-load was 493 kcal.

Results showed no compensation in food intakes following consumption of the stevia and aspartame preloads, compared with the sucrose preload. Indeed, there was only about 300 kcal of difference over the entire day between the stevia/aspartame pre-loads and the sucrose pre-load.

Furthermore, no significant differences were reported for hunger and satiety levels.

An additional effect from stevia preloads was reported by the researchers, whereby the blood glucose and insulin levels after the meals were lower. This result suggested that stevia could assist with glucose regulation, they said.

“The key finding was that participants did not compensate by eating more at either their lunch or dinner meal when they consumed lower calorie preloads containing stevia or aspartame compared to when they consumed higher calorie preloads containing sucrose,” wrote Anton and his co-workers.

Source: Appetite
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2010.03.009
“Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels”
Authors: S.D. Anton, C.K. Martin, H. Han, S. Coulon, W.T. Cefalu, P. Geiselman, D.A. Williamson

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