No, sweeteners do not whet the appetite!

No, sweeteners do not whet the appetite!

Sparking controversy for many years for their counterproductive appetite-stimulating effect, sweeteners may not ultimately be so bad from a nutritional point of view. English and French researchers have thus agreed on their ability to reduce blood sugar and insulin levels.

Aspartame in a soda, sucralose to give a sweet taste to your yogurt without adding calories, acesulfame potassium in chewing gum… Today there are a whole bunch of food additives to give the impression of a sweet taste. In a recent report, the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES) also indicates that there is 4.5 times less aspartame in our food currently than in ten years ago. However, other so-called intense sweeteners are no less present. But, contrary to what we have imagined for many years, this would not necessarily pose a problem from a nutritional point of view.

Sweeteners do not induce an increase in appetite

Scientists from the University of Leeds, who joined forces with researchers from the Rhône-Alpes Human Nutrition Research Center (CRNH), have just thrown a wrench into the pond by indicating that sweeteners do not induce an increase in appetite. They also supported their conclusion in a study published in what constitutes the most recognized scientific journal on a global scale, The Lancet. “The use of sweeteners and sweet taste enhancers has received much negative attention, including high-profile publications linking their consumption to impaired blood sugar response, toxicological DNA damage, and increased risk of heart attack and of stroke. These reports contribute to the current confusion regarding the safety of sweeteners and flavor enhancers among the general public and particularly among people at risk for metabolic diseases.” explains researcher Graham Finlayson, professor of psychology at Leeds. And concludes: “our study provides crucial evidence supporting daily use of sweeteners and sweet taste enhancers for body weight and blood sugar control“.

The whole difference with previous studies is that this one does not only take into account aspartame. There is also talk of stevia, a natural sweetener, but also of neotame, which is an artificial sweetener. Furthermore, scientific research has until now focused on the impact of sweeteners using sugary drinks as a base product. Here, the guinea pigs had to eat biscuits filled with fruit. “Very few studies have examined the effect of repeated daily consumption of a known sweetener or flavor enhancer as part of a normal diet” explain the Leeds researchers in a press release, so that consumers do not take this conclusion as a reversal of decision on the scientists’ side.

A useful tool for reducing sugar consumption

The experiment involved overweight or obese patients, who had to eat these biscuits for three periods of two weeks. At the end of this consumption, blood samples were taken to examine the levels of glucose, but also of insulin and hormones linked to appetite, such as ghrelin. Result: it has not been demonstrated that the feeling of satiety is not satisfied when ingesting these sweeteners. Better still, blood sugar levels even fell, as did insulin levels.

The conclusion is as surprising as it is straightforward: “The results show that sweeteners are a useful tool for reducing added sugar consumption without causing a compensatory increase in appetite or energy intake, thus supporting the usefulness of sweeteners for the management of appetite, energy and weight” explains Professor Anne Raben, co-coordinator of the SWEET project, at the University of Copenhagen, into which this scientific experiment is part.

But this does not mean that you should integrate sweeteners permanently into your diet. In 2022, Inserm indicated that their consumption could be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. More specifically, aspartame may be correlated with cerebrovascular diseases, while acesulfame-K and sucralose may be more closely linked to coronary heart disease.