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Does Artificial Sweetener Induce Weight Gain by Increasing HungerResearch Paper

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¶ … Artificial Sweetener Stimulate Appetite and Induce Weight Gain?

This paper examines the findings of four peer-reviewed scientific articles (two supporting and two opposing), on the issue of whether artificial sweeteners stimulate weight gain. Some scientific studies have reported that the use of artificial sweeteners in beverages result in weight gain, while others have argued that weight gain is actually brought about by sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. Several arguments have been put forth to support or argue against either of the sides. The article, A Trial of Artificially Sweetened vs. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Body Weight in Children by de Ruyter et al. opposes that artificial sweetener stimulates appetite and induces weight gain. It takes its position from the evidence provided from study conducted on normal weight children by examining the effects of artificially sweetened beverages on their weight. The results of this study indicated a negative correlation between the intake of artificially sweetened beverages and accumulation of fats and weight gain in these children. The article, Fueling the Obesity Epidemic? Artificially Sweetened Beverage Use and Long-Term Weight Gain by Fowler et al. supports the hypothesis that artificial sweetener stimulates appetite and induces weight gain. This position is influenced by the findings that there was positive dose-response correlation between artificially sweetened beverages and long-term weight gain. The article Sucrose Compared with Artificial Sweeteners: Different Effects on Ad Libitum Food Intake and Body Weight after 10 Wk. of Supplementation in Overweight Subjects by Raben et al. also opposes that artificial sweetener stimulates appetite and induces weight gain. In their study, the findings indicated that artificial sweetener supplements caused no increase in fat mass, body weight, blood pressure and energy intake in overweight individuals. Moreover, the article Saccharin and Aspartame, Compared With Sucrose, Induce Greater Weight Gain in Adult Wistar Rats, At Similar Total Caloric Intake Levels by de Matos Feijo et al. also supports the hypothesis that artificial sweetener stimulates appetite and induces weight gain. From a study conducted to examine the effects of aspartame or saccharin on weight gain in rats, the researchers found a positive correlation. This issue is of considerable importance to people's health. This is because, nowadays, more and more food companies are turning to artificial sweeteners since they are cheaper and apparently less harmful to health than sugars (which are linked to diabetes mellitus and other chronic conditions). Thus, it is important to find out which of the two sides is better supported by scientific evidence to help people make better choices.

Articles Analyses

Article 1 (Oppose) A trial of artificially sweetened vs. sugar-sweetened beverages and body weight in children

Objectives of the research study

To investigate the changes in weight gain by using a masked replacement of sugar-containing beverages with those that are non-caloric (artificially sweetened)

Brief description of the methods used to conduct the study, understanding the experimental design

The research was conducted in an eighteen-month period and it involved 641 children who were of normal weight. The oldest child was 11 years and 11 months while the youngest was 4 years and 10 months. The participants of the study were on a daily basis randomly given one of two types of beverages each of which was 250 ml. The drinks were either sugar-free (with an artificial sweetener) or contained sugars (with a total of 104 kilocalories). The beverages were given in schools. By the end of the study, 26% of the children had ceased participating in the study; however the data from those students was incorporated in some of the analyses.

Summary of the results

The Body Mass Index (BMI) of the children who were being given sugar free drinks increased by a mean of 0.02 SD units and 0.15 SD units for the children who took sugar drinks. The weight of the children who took sugar drinks increased by 7.37 kilograms compared to 6.35 kilograms for the children who were in the sugar-free group; the 95% confidence interval for the difference, -1.54 to -0.48. The waist-to-weight ratio, fat mass and skinfold-thickness measurements increased significantly for the children who were in the sugar group. There were only minor adverse events. When the final analysis was done by incorporating data from the 26% who did not finish the study, the BMI score rose by 0.06 SD units for the children who took sugar free drinks and 0.12 SD units for those who were in the sugar group (P = 0.06).

Summary of the author's conclusions

The masked replacement of sugar-sweetened beverages with non-caloric (artificially sweetened) drinks led to less fat accumulation and weight gain in children who were of normal weight.

Discussion of the strengths of the study and a clear explanation as to why these strengths increase confidence in the author's conclusions

The study found that the masked replacement of sugar-sweetened beverages with artificial sweeteners resulted in significantly less accumulation of body fat in the children. The study had a couple of strengths. First, the double-blind design removed the impact of psychological indications and the need to exhibit socially desirable behavior and enabled the sole testing of biologic processes. Even though, the blinding was not perfect, it was more effective than most double-blind methods.Testing for sucralose levels in urine samples from the participants indicated a high adherence rate. Previous studies might have resulted in non-consistent results due to lack of adherence, short study periods, smaller sample numbers and lack of stratified randomization.

This sample size was enough to allow precise results, and the one and a half year study period meant that the observed outcomes were not transient. The sample size of 461 and the individual randomization led to well-balanced study groups. After taking care of the other variables, the study assumed that all the other variables that could have an effect on body weight were the same between the groups and hence, the differences that were observed in BMI scores and the body fat scores could be largely attributed to the given beverage.

Discussion of the study's weaknesses and a clear explanation as to why these weaknesses reduce confidence in the author's conclusions

The Dutch children who participated in the study were healthy kids and most of them were whites and of normal weight. Thus, we cannot be sure if the outcome would be the same in individuals of other ethnic extractions or in children who are obese or even if the study was conducted among adults, even though the assumption is that the same biologic processes are active.

Discussion of how this study supports one side of the controversy

In the majority of observational studies, drinking of beverages that are artificially sweetened is linked to weight gain and not weight loss. That idea has constantly supported the notion that artificial sweeteners bring about weight gain, for instance some of the arguments used to support that idea is that artificial sweeteners activate the gut's sweet taste receptors. The findings of the Dutch study above do not support that notion or hypothesis. A counter argument is that individuals who are vulnerable to gaining weight may turn to artificial sweeteners in an effort to cut the amount of calories they consume. Consumers may also be of the opinion that the use of artificial sweeteners allows them to consume more of other food, however this may result in an overall increase in caloric intake. And thus whatever the argument put forward, the epidemiologic correlation between weight gain and consumption of foods containing artificial sweeteners show that switching to sugar-free (artificially sweetened) beverages is in itself not a sufficient move to tackle weight gain (de Ruyter et al., 2012).

Article 2 (Oppose) Sucrose relative to artificial sweeteners: different effects on ad libitum food intake and body weight after 10 wk of supplementation in overweight subjects

Objectives of the research study

The research study examined the impact of long-term supplementation of foods and drinks containing either artificial sweeteners or sucrose on ad libitum food consumption and body-weight in subjects who were overweight.

Brief description of the methods used to conduct the study

For a period of ten weeks, overweight women and men had a daily intake of supplements of either artificial sweeteners (BMI (in kg/m2) =27.6, n=20) or sucrose (BMI=28, n=21). On average artificial supplements provided 0 gram sucrose/d and 1.0 MJ while sucrose supplements provided 152 grams sucrose/d and 3.4 MJ.

Summary of the results

After a total of ten weeks, the group that was taking sucrose supplements had recorded increases in total energy, sucrose (up by 28%) and total energy (up by 1.6 MJ/d). The group had also recorded increases in carbohydrates consumption. The same group recorded decreases in protein and fat intakes. The artificial sweetener group recorded only minor but important decreases in energy density and sucrose intake. Increases in fat mass and body weight were recorded in the sucrose group (by 1.3 kg and 1.6, respectively), while the sweetener group recorded reductions of 0.3 kg and 1.0 respectively); the differences between groups were significant at P < 0.01 for fat mass and P… [END OF PREVIEW]

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