Are zero calorie sweeteners actually making us eat more? We recently reported that artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain. However, a new study is contradicting that finding. According to a small study conducted at the University of Florida, choosing a zero calorie sweetener over sugar may not lead to caloric compensation later in the day.
In this study, those who were given either stevia or aspartame prior to breakfast ate the same amount of food (over an entire day) as those who were given sugar. Well, with one exception: the amount of sugar. Therefore, the researchers concluded that having either stevia or aspartame in lieu of sugar does not lead to calorie compensation throughout the day, and in fact eating sugar means, quite simply, eating more calories. Also of note, both hunger and satiety levels did not differ among any of the groups, meaning that the zero calorie sweeteners did not cause increased hunger between meals.
This study was very small, with only 31 participants, so bigger studies are necessary before general recommendations can be made. Also, this study was extremely well controlled; all meals were given out and consumed at the research facility. The same results may not be noted in a free eating environment.
While this is encouraging evidence that zero calorie sweeteners may be a good weight loss tool, there is a physiological basis for the argument that artificial sweeteners lead to increased cravings for sweets over time, which in turn leads to weight gain.
Considering that added sugars in the average American’s diet can lead to a weight gain of 30 lbs. a year, these artificial sweeteners seem to be a better alternative to sugar. But maybe we should all play it safe and train our taste buds away from sweets and start drinking that morning coffee black.