Is the use of artificially sweetened beverages as effective as water for weight loss?
Disclaimer: The objective of this article is not to discuss the relative safety and "healthiness" of the consumption of various non-nutritive artificial sweeteners. What follows is an analysis of data that is presented in the present manuscript.
Currently there is a divide in the health and fitness industry regarding the use of various non-nutritive artificial sweeteners as opposed to simply consuming water for hydration purposes as well as overall weight loss. Although, most of the claims being made on either side are not only biased due to the general crowd they associate with but also due to anecdotal (personal) experience with either substance.
Because of this divide, Peters et al., 2016 decided to test whether or not there is actually any difference between the use of artificially sweetened beverages or simply water when undergoing a weight-loss program followed by a period of weight maintenance. The researchers recruited 303 participants to take part in an equivalence study (meaning all variables were the same apart from consuming artificial sweeteners or only water) for one year including a 12 week weight loss protocol followed by a 40 week period of weight maintenance.
The following is how they manipulated the variables:
Of the 303 participants, only 222 were able to complete the study. Both groups showed statistically significant weight loss and ability to maintain weight loss throughout the duration of the study. However, the group that consumed NNS had significantly greater reductions in total weight loss and had a slower rate of weight regain following the weight loss intervention.
When we look at variables such as weight circumference and subjective hunger, we again see that consumption of NNS seems to reign supreme.
So what does it all mean?
As it seems, the use of artificially sweetened beverages may provide serious benefit when looking at total weight loss, reduction in weight regain, and levels of subjective hunger when under calorie restriction.
Considering the nature of this study, there are some things to be concerned about:
Based on my personal experience, I am an avid proponent of the use of artificial sweeteners. During my various bouts of weight loss attempts, the use of artificially sweetened beverages (Vanilla Coke Zero) has benefitted me greatly in terms of reduction in hunger, so far as I've gone to the length of attributing success solely to the use of them.
The bottom line
The present study seems to indicate that the use of artificially sweetened beverages may be superior to solely using water when undergoing both a weight loss regimen and weight loss maintenance period. Again, it must be noted that the use of these substances should be entirely based on subjective experience. However, the data does seem to indicate that the suggestion to solely use water as a means of aiding weight loss is misguided and may actually prevent you from losing weight and keeping it off. The use of artificially sweetened beverages seems to provide significant benefit in terms of total weight loss and the reduction in hunger.
Funding agencies: The study was fully funded by The American Beverage Association. The American Beverage Association was not involved in the design, conduct, interpretation, or manuscript preparation of this study. Furthermore, a third‐party organization (Biofortis‐Provident) was hired at the PIs’ request. Biofortis‐Provident audited data at both clinical sites to check for the accuracy and integrity of the data.
Peters, J. C., Beck, J., Cardel, M., Wyatt, H. R., Foster, G. D., Pan, Z., … Hill, J. O. (2016). The effects of water and non-nutritive sweetened beverages on weight loss and weight maintenance: A randomized clinical trial. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 24(2), 297–304. http://doi.org/10.1002/oby.21327
Do you have an opinion on this subject or have you had any personal success with the use of artificially sweetened beverages? Sound off in the comments below and let your voice be heard!
I am a prospective Powerlifter and endurance training fanatic and care about science-based research on training technique and nutrition. I have a B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience, and I am currently pursuing a M.S. in Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at the University of Tampa. I also hold the Certified Strength & Conditioning Certification through the NSCA.