Common sense suggests eating less sugar is a way to cut down on calorie-consumption/energy intake and eventually, body weight. Swapping a zero-calorie sweetener for sugar is a reasonable approach to cutting sugar intake, but some wonder if other effects intervene when swapping zero-calorie sweeteners for sugar that can ultimately cause a gain in body weight. For instance: do we eat more because we know we are taking in fewer calories—sort of a mental compensation for those fewer calories?

PJ Rogers and colleagues set out to answer this question in a report that would go on to be published in the International Journal of Obesity and accepted by health organizations worldwide as a leading piece of research pertaining to the relationship between low and zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia and body weight. Rogers and colleagues commissioned a literature review to evaluate the effects of consuming zero-calorie sweeteners (“low-energy sweeteners” or LES) on energy intake (EI) and/or body weight (BW)/body mass index. They searched out three particular types of studies to evaluate:

  • Animal studies that tested the effects of repeated consumption of LES on BW and EI. They found 62 articles that equated to 90 eligible studies.
  • Human observation studies that reported on LES beverages or LES intake with BW as an outcome. They found a total of 12 eligible studies.
  • Human interventional studies, both short-term (<1 day) (56 eligible articles for a total of 218 comparisons) and sustained (> day) 9 studies focused on EI and BW.


It is not surprising that the authors found that the consumption of low-energy sweeteners in place of sugar was a way to reduce short-term energy intake. The authors noted evidence to suggest that swapping LES for sugar was a good way to reduce EI and BW. In regards to the question of whether low-energy sweeteners might actually cause people to eat more simply because the sweetness tasted so good, the researchers concluded that the consumption of LES-sweetened beverages had little effect on BW.

Read the entire report here.