Artificial sweeteners: a place in the field of functional foods? Focus on obesity and related metabolic disorders

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2012 Nov;15(6):597-604. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328359678a.


Purpose of review: Artificial sweeteners can be a helpful tool to reduce energy intake and body weight and thereby risk for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Considering the prevailing diabesity (obesity and diabetes) epidemic, this can, therefore, be an important alternative to natural, calorie-containing sweeteners. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current evidence on the effect of artificial sweeteners on body weight, appetite, and risk markers for diabetes and CVD in humans.

Recent findings: Short-term intervention studies have shown divergent results wrt appetite regulation, but overall artificial sweeteners cannot be claimed to affect hunger. Data from longer term intervention studies are scarce, but together they point toward a beneficial effect of artificial sweeteners on energy intake, body weight, liver fat, fasting and postprandial glycemia, insulinemia, and/or lipidemia compared with sugar. Epidemiological studies are not equivocal, but large cohort studies from the USA point toward decreased body weight and lower risk of type-2 diabetes and coronory heart diseases with increased intake of artificial sweeteners compared with sugar.

Summary: Artificial sweeteners, especially in beverages, can be a useful aid to maintain reduced energy intake and body weight and decrease risk of type-2 diabetes and CVD compared with sugars. However, confirmative long-term intervention trials are still needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite / drug effects
  • Beverages*
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Energy Intake / drug effects
  • Functional Food*
  • Humans
  • Hunger / drug effects
  • Metabolic Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Metabolic Diseases / prevention & control
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Prevalence
  • Sweetening Agents / adverse effects*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Weight Loss / drug effects


  • Blood Glucose
  • Sweetening Agents