Obesity has become an epidemic, not just in the United States, but also across the globe. Obesity is a result of many factors including poor dietary habits, inadequate physical activity, hormonal issues, and sedentary lifestyle, as well as many psychological issues. Direct and indirect costs associated with obesity-related morbidity and mortality have been estimated to be in the billions of dollars. Of the many avenues for treatment, dietary interventions are the most common. Numerous diets have been popularized in the media, with most being fads having little to no scientific evidence to validate their effectiveness. Amidst this rise of weight loss diets, there has been a surge of individual products advertised as assuring quick weight loss; one such product group is non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS). Sugar, a common component of our diet, is also a major contributing factor to a number of health problems, including obesity and increased dental diseases both in adults and children. Most foods marketed towards children are sugar-laden. Obesity-related health issues, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, and hypertension, once only commonly seen in older adults, are increasing in youth. Manufacturers of NNS are using this as an opportunity to promote their products, and are marketing them as safe for all ages. A systematic review of several databases and reliable websites on the internet was conducted to identify literature related to NNS. Keywords that were used individually or in combination included, but were not limited to, artificial sweeteners, non-nutritive sweeteners, non-caloric sweeteners, obesity, sugar substitutes, diabetes, and cardiometabolic indicators. The clinical and epidemiologic data available at present are insufficient to make definitive conclusions regarding the benefits of NNS in displacing caloric sweeteners as related to energy balance, maintenance or decrease in body weight, and other cardiometabolic risk factors. Although the FDA and most published (especially industry-funded) studies endorse the safety of these additives, there is a lack of conclusive evidence-based research to discourage or to encourage their use on a regular basis. While moderate use of NNS may be useful as a dietary aid for someone with diabetes or on a weight loss regimen, for optimal health it is recommended that only minimal amounts of both sugar and NNS be consumed.
Keywords: Artificial sweeteners; Non-caloric sweeteners; Non-nutritive sweeteners; Obesity; Sugar substitutes.
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