Low-calorie sweeteners safe or not: Expert Consensus statement released
The panel concluded that low calorie sweeteners can be beneficial for weight management when they are used to replace sugar in products consumed in the diet (without energy substitution).
There has been lot of controversy with respect to the utility of using low/no-calorie sweeteners. With an increasing load of diabetes and obesity, the use of such sweeteners has increased gradually. But every now and question has been raised about their effectiveness and safety. Finally, something to cheer about for the users of such sweeteners.
A new scientific report* by Ashwell et al. published in Nutrition Research Reviews has exhaustively dealt with the use of No/Low-calorie sweeteners. The report titled Expert consensus on low-calorie sweeteners: facts, research gaps and suggested actions deals with various important aspects related to low-calorie sweeteners (LCS)
The paper is the result of consensus workshop on low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) was held in November 2018 where seventeen experts (the panel) discussed three themes identified as key to the science and policy of LCS:
(1) weight management and glucose control;
(2) consumption, safety and perception;
(3) nutrition policy.
The aims were to identify the reliable facts on LCS, suggest research gaps and propose future actions.
The panel agreed that the safety of LCS is demonstrated by a substantial body of evidence reviewed by regulatory experts and current levels of consumption, even for high users, are within agreed safety margins. However, better risk communication is needed. More emphasis is required on the role of LCS in helping individuals reduce their sugar and energy intake, which is a public health priority.
Based on reviews of clinical evidence to date, the panel concluded that LCS can be beneficial for weight management when they are used to replace sugar in products consumed in the diet (without energy substitution). The available evidence suggests no grounds for concerns about adverse effects of LCS on sweet preference, appetite or glucose control; indeed, LCS may improve diabetic control and dietary compliance, it stated.
Regarding effects on the human gut microbiota, data are limited and do not provide adequate evidence that LCS affect gut health at doses relevant to human use.
The panel identified research priorities, including collation of the totality of evidence on LCS and body weight control, monitoring and modelling of LCS intakes, impacts on sugar reduction and diet quality and developing effective communication strategies to foster informed choice.
There is also a need to reconcile policy discrepancies between organisations and reduce regulatory hurdles that impede low-energy product development and reformulation.
This new publication points to the extensive body of robust scientific evidence that shows that low/no-calorie sweeteners:
Commenting on the paper, lead author Dr Margaret Ashwell in a release highlighted that: "The aim of our workshop was to stimulate forward-thinking as well as to restate principles. It is the consensus of the panel that the substantial body of evidence around low-calorie sweeteners' safety and role in helping people reduce their sugar and calorie intake, a public health priority, should be communicated in a consistent manner".
Co-author Sigrid Gibson added: "We [the 17-panel experts] came together to discuss and debate what we really do know, what we don't yet know, and what should be done in relation to research on low-calorie sweeteners, in light of current public health policies. This experts' consensus is important because it provides clarity to communicators so that they know they can give a message with confidence. So, we hope that the recommendations arising from this workshop will assist policymakers and other stakeholders including NGOs, health professionals, research funding bodies and the food and beverage industry".
Provided that they are used in place of sugar and in the context of a healthy diet and lifestyle, the experts agree that low/no-calorie sweeteners have a beneficial role to play in helping achieve sugar and calorie intake reduction, which associated health gains cannot be ignored. They clarified that the benefit of using low/no-calorie sweeteners will depend on the number of sugars replaced in the diet as well as the overall diet quality.
As also stated by the experts' panel, the "Use of LCS [low calorie sweeteners] alone cannot be expected to act as a 'silver bullet' for weight loss". Nevertheless, and based on the robust scientific evidence considered, the authors concluded that low/no-calorie sweeteners can be useful in dietary approaches to both prevent and manage diabetes and obesity, and can facilitate a reduction in energy intake and weight loss.
Having discussed research priorities, and in line with another consensus of experts published recently the panel agreed that future research should include well-designed, high-quality human studies to confirm long-term benefits of low/no-calorie sweeteners. Furthermore, the report indicated the need for studies to model low/no-calorie sweeteners' impact on sugar reduction and diet quality.
They further concluded that: "Efforts should be made to understand and, where possible, reconcile policy discrepancies between organizations and reduce regulatory hurdles that impede product development and reformulation designed to reduce sugars and/or calories.
You can read the full statement by clicking on the following link