Do sugar-free sweeteners really help you lose weight?

BY STEVEN REINBERG, CBS News

If you think a switch from sugar to a calorie-free sweetener might help you get healthier and shed pounds, think again. After years of research, there’s still only very weak evidence that no-cal sweeteners might be beneficial, according to German researchers who looked over data from 56 studies involving either adults or kids.

The investigators looked at a variety of health outcomes including weight, blood sugar, oral health, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, mood and behavior.

“Most health outcomes did not seem to have differences between the non-sugar sweetener exposed and unexposed groups,” concluded the team led by Joerg Meerpohl of the University of Freiburg.

The quantity of non-sugar sweetener used didn’t seem to matter, either, the team added.

In children, no evidence was found in weight gain between those who used non-sugar sweeteners or sugar, the research showed.

There was also no evidence of any effect of non-sugar sweeteners on overweight or obese adults or children who were actively trying to lose weight.

In the few studies that did show a mild health benefit for no-cal sweetener use, population sizes were either very small or the duration of the trial was too short to make any firm conclusions, the study authors noted.

One nutritionist in the United States wasn’t surprised by the findings.