The questions around sugar and nonnutritive sweeteners continue to circle around the internet leaving many consumers confused about what is the best way to sweeten foods. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position paper on - "Use of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners" provides some clear evidence and guidance for Registered Dietitians and their clients.
The updated position1 paper appeared in the May issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and it states:
It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners when consumed within an eating plane that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary Reference Intakes, as well as individual health goals and personal preference.
The paper provides a good review of nutritive sweeteners, their use, consumption trends, and guidelines for use as outline by the Dietary References Intakes, the American Heart Association, WHO and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The paper identifies that added sugars contribute about 14.6% of total calorie intake from the 2007 – 2008 NHANES data with soft drinks and energy/sports drinks providing about 35.7% of the total added sugars.
Acknowledging the role of sugar calories in contributing to excess body weight the paper provides a review of evidence from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library (EAL) on the role of nonnutritive sweeteners in weight. The EAL includes graded information on the scientific evidence related to specific questions and provides links to the research studies supporting the conclusions. The position paper incorporates key questions from the EAL related to the nutritive sweeteners - high fructose corn syrup and sugar alcohols, along with the following nonnutritive sweeteners.
While the EAL questions that are included in the position paper vary slightly for each sweetener, a key question that is included for many of the sweeteners is one related to impact of sweetener use on appetite and energy intake. Although there has been much speculation about whether low calorie sweeteners help in weight management - or even hinder it - the question related to energy balance and the use of Aspartame, resulted in a Grade of I or Good evidence to support the role of Aspartame sweetened products as part of a comprehensive weight loss or maintenance program. The statement goes on to states that this "may be associated with greater weight loss and may assist individuals with weight management over time." It also states that there is good evidence that aspartame does not affect appetite or food intake and that Aspartame consumption is not associated with adverse effects in the general population.
Overall, the updated position paper is a great resource for all health professionals, pulling together the current body of scientific evidence related to how sweeteners, both those found naturally in foods and those added to foods, impact health. The paper outlines how a balanced approach to eating can allow for consumption of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners but that consumers need to understand how sweeteners fit into their eating plans while RD's need to know the body of scientific evidence related to both.
Connie Diekman, M.Ed, RD, LD, FADA, is a registered dietitian and provides expert counsel to the Aspartame Resource Center.
- Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners. J. Acad Nutr. Diet. 2012;112:739-758.