Contrary to the hypothesis of two Purdue University researchers just published in the International Journal of Obesity, several studies have shown that the use of aspartame in foods and beverages can help with weight loss and long-term control of body weight and does not increase hunger or food intake in children or adults.
“The Purdue University rat studies amounted to pure speculation and are in sharp contrast with the findings of a number of peer-reviewed scientific studies involving humans that have been published in prestigious journals,” said Kathleen Dezio, spokeswoman for the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA). “Those studies showed that the notion that sweetness in non-caloric or low-caloric foods leads to a disregulation of food intake in humans is simply untrue.”
Low-calorie sweeteners offer an effective method of reducing the energy density of foods and maintaining the palatability of foods. The beverage industry currently uses four of these sweeteners in their products: aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, and acesulfame K. All of these sweeteners have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Research conducted by Dr. George Blackburn, associate professor of nutrition at the Harvard Medical School and chief of the Nutrition Metabolism Laboratory that is affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, found that aspartame intake was positively correlated with weight loss and weight maintenance.
Blackburn conducted the first large, randomized, controlled, prospective outpatient clinical trial investigating whether the addition of aspartame to a multidisciplinary weight control program would improve weight loss and long-term body weight in obese women. In his study, 163 obese women were randomly assigned to consume or abstain from foods and beverages with aspartame for 16 weeks during a 19-week weight loss program, a one-year maintenance program, and a two-year follow-up period. Both groups of women in the study lost 10 percent of their initial body weight, but the aspartame group regained significantly less weight during the maintenance period than did the no-aspartame group.
In a paper presented at the World Conference on Low-Calorie Sweeteners in Spain, Blackburn wrote, “The results of the 71-week study showed that participating in a weight control program that includes the use of aspartame significantly enhances weight maintenance.”
Studies by researchers at the University of Illinois (Birch, et al, 1989) and the University of Toronto (Anderson, et al, 1989) also found that replacing sucrose with a high intensity sweetener in foods or beverages does not affect food intake or hunger in children.
The Purdue study also used flawed methodology, which brings into question the accuracy of its conclusions for rats or humans. For example, the researchers did not report if the rats consumed equal amounts of low-calorie and regular sweeteners.