Low calorie sweeteners are an aid to weight loss, not weight gain

What 22,000 Adults Had to Say About Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Weight Loss

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

Research on regular users of low-calorie sweeteners has found they have better diets than nonusers. If that isn’t incentive to use them, I don’t know what is! Of course, adding a low-calorie sweetener to your coffee isn’t all it takes to become healthy and thin, but studies show it can be part of a healthy lifestyle for many people and helps them reach their goals. And that’s exactly what the latest study by researchers Adam Drewnowski and Colin Rehm at the University of Washington found.

Since other research has reported an association between low-calorie sweeteners and obesity by simply looking at who was using them and their weight classification, Drewnowski and Rehm wanted to answer the question, “What came first, the weight gain or the use of low-calorie sweeteners?”

In their study, they went back 10 years to see peoples’ weight histories and their intent, or motivation, to lose weight during that time. What they found is the use of low-calorie sweeteners was common among people who were experiencing weight fluctuations and who were trying to return to a lower weight. In fact, nearly one-third of adults trying to lose or maintain weight used low-calorie sweetened products.

As anyone who has lost weight knows, it is easy to regain. When that starts to happen, there is a tendency to resume the weight loss strategies that helped in the past, like using low-calorie sweeteners. Even people experiencing weight gain for the first time and those with the early warning signs of diabetes may decide to use low-calorie sweeteners as a first step to reduce their caloric intake or added sugars in their diet. In both these examples, the low-calorie sweetener was selected after the problem of weight gain or prediabetes was identified, not the other way around.

Asking the Right Questions

Here’s how the study was done.

Information was collected from more than 22,000 adults about their use of low-calorie sweeteners in the past 24 hours, their intent to lose or maintain weight over the past 12 months and their 10-year weight history. Height and weight records were used to classify the participants as normal weight, overweight or obese during the period under investigation and a questionnaire was completed to determine if they had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Drawing the Right Conclusions

What the researchers found was the use of low-calorie sweeteners was associated with self-reported intention to lose weight during the previous 12 months, indicating it was a strategy being selected to help with weight loss.   They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners, and  this was true for participants at any weight, not just those who were overweight or obese. This finding provides the strongest evidence yet that low-calorie sweeteners do not cause weight gain, but are chosen to help prevent it.

They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners.

A final conclusion drawn from this research, based on the analysis of the 10-year weight change data, is that obese individuals may have switched to diet beverages made with low-calorie sweeteners after they gained weight.  This supports the possibility that use of low-calorie sweeteners may be a useful “marker” to identify people have experienced weight gain and are trying to reduce it.

What Does This Mean For You?

We now have better evidence than ever that low-calorie sweeteners are deliberately chosen by individuals as a weight management strategy and do not contribute to weight gain. Using low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar is a simple step anyone can take to help reduce their caloric intake as part of a healthy lifestyle.


Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.


Weight loss tips based on the best research

Weight Loss Tips: Can SPLENDA® Sweeteners Help with My Weight Loss Goals?

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

If all you ever hear is “diets don’t work,” it’s easy to become discouraged about trying to lose weight. You even may have tried a few fad diets yourself and gained first-hand experience with their long-term ineffectiveness. But that doesn’t mean there is no hope in controlling your weight. What it may mean is you’re ready to forget about fad diets and turn to the research on what does work for weight management. Here’s a short recap of some of the latest findings that can help.

Weight Loss Tip: Replace Sugar with No-Calorie and Low-Calorie Sweeteners

Research published in the May 2015 Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reviewed 10 studies on the impact of replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with alternative lower calorie beverages, including water and diet drinks made with no-calorie and low-calorie sweeteners, such as SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. The researchers found this simple substitution was associated with lower calorie intake and lower weight gain in the long term. Based on the available evidence, the researchers concluded there is a potential benefit on body weight by substituting water and other low-calorie beverages for sugar-sweetened ones.

The above results were reinforced in a larger systematic review of the evidence from 90 animal studies and 245 human studies in adults and children on the effects of low-calorie sweeteners on energy intake and body weight. The findings were published in the International Journal of Obesity in November 2015 and found no evidence from the many short and long term studies in humans that “low energy sweeteners” increase energy intake or body weight. In fact, the review concluded that use of no-calorie sweeteners in place of added sugar, can help one to lose weight and that research should now be focused on how we can best use no-calorie sweeteners for the most effective weight loss strategies.

And just in case you’ve heard that consuming low-calorie sweeteners might backfire by increasing your preference for other sweet tasting foods and drinks, another important study put that myth to rest. In a paper published in Current Obesity Reports in March 2015, researchers analyzed the data from several types of studies to determine the effects of no- and low-calorie sweeteners on appetite for, and intake of, sweet tasting products. What they found was there was no consistent relationship to support a heightened appetite for sweet foods, and some studies actually showed no- and low-calorie sweeteners were associated with consumption of fewer sweets. In studies involving both children and adults the research showed the use of no- and low-calorie sweeteners can reduce the intake of caloric sweeteners and support weight loss efforts.

Weight Loss Tip: Text Your Way to Better Health

The Annual Review of Public Health in March 2015 published a review of dozens of studies that looked at the use of text messages to assist people in reaching their health goals. One of the first things the researchers found was there is a wide range of app features and types of messages available. Some apps allow for interaction, offer personalized messages or can be programmed to customize the frequency of message delivery. General messages offer advice, motivation, encouragement, tips and/or support to users on a regular basis. The researchers found the majority of the interventions were effective when addressing weight loss and some other health goals including smoking cessation and diabetes management. In short, it’s like having a support group in your smartphone.

Weight Loss Tip: Rearrange the Kitchen

The foods on the kitchen counter in your own home can have an impact on your weight, according to a study published in Health Education and Behavior in October 2015. The researchers found the more visible and convenient foods such as cookies, cereal and soft drinks are in the kitchen, the more likely household members will have a high Body Mass Index. On the other hand, the food most often found on kitchen counters in homes of people who are not overweight was fresh fruit. These results are consistent with other research done by this team that found office workers ate more candy when it was on their desks than when it was in the desk drawer or on a filing cabinet. According to lead researcher Brian Wansink, PhD., the visibility and convenience of food has a greater influence on how much we eat compared to hunger.

Putting the Latest Research on Weight Loss into Action in the New Year:

  •  Switch to no-calorie and low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, in place of sugar in your drinks and use diet beverages and water instead of full-calorie drinks.
  • Download a coaching app to your smartphone, tablet or computer to support and encourage you to reach your weight loss goals every day.
  • Remove high calorie, high fat snack foods from the kitchen counter (and office desk) and keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter.

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.


Robyn Flipse, Registered Dietitian and Cultural Anthropologist

Meet Health Goes Strong Writer Robyn Flipse

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.


Some say timing is everything, and for me I would have to say that is true when it comes to my chosen profession.  I became a registered dietitian in the 1970s during the food revolution triggered by two books: Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring and Adelle Davis’s Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit. (Anyone who has a personal Woodstock story read them both.) Little did I know that what we eat would remain headline news throughout the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st !

My good timing lead to a career bringing diet and health information to a public whose appetite is never satisfied. I have provided hundreds of television, radio and print interviews; presented at international symposia; appeared in national media tours; and created Internet videos to meet the demand for more food and nutrition news.

Even after writing three books and a website column (that became my first blog once the word “blog” was invented), I still had more to say. Then along came the offer to become a blogger for Health Goes Strong in September 2011. I write as The Everyday Dietitian and hope to keep posting until everyone has had their fill!

What I Know Now That I Didn’t Know at 20

Without a doubt, I know that time is more valuable than money. Time is the universal equalizer, and the more of it you have the richer your life will be. In fact, everything I know about eating and exercise comes down to having enough time to put into practice. That is why all of my career decisions have been based on how to spend fewer hours working so I’ll have more time for living well.

Another under-appreciated nugget I learned later in life is that the shoes you wear will determine how fit you’ll be. There are literally millions of steps that go untaken when wearing fashionable, but impractical shoes. Once I figured that out, I never let my footwear keep me from climbing the stairs, parking on the perimeter, or dancing at a wedding. Modern technology is destined to make us all fat and sedentary, but you can fight back with a comfortable pair of shoes.

What I know About Eating That Most People Don’t

Nutrition information does not make people eat better. It just allows them to know more about what’s in their food and how it can affect their health.  Making the right food choices each and every day takes motivation (plus time, skill, and money). Finding your source of motivation to eat well is the key to overcoming all of the cultural distractions that have been blamed for making us fat and unhealthy. Government regulations can’t make unmotivated people eat right, just as seductive advertising can’t keep the motivated from doing so.

Some things I’ve written that you really should read.

Getting Motivated to Eat Right

Beware of Footwear That Can Make You Fat This Holiday Season 

Childhood Obesity: 5 Things Every Parent Should Know 

Low calorie sweeteners are safe for everyone in the family

Are Low Calorie Sweeteners Safe for Children and Pregnant Women?

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com on October 31, 2014. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

The most successful clients I ever saw in my 30+ years providing nutrition therapy to individuals and families were pregnant women. They could break a bad habit overnight and maintain a new one without missing a beat. As proud as I was of their results, I knew it wasn’t because I was such an exceptional counselor. It was because they were all so exceptionally motivated.

They knew their food choices didn’t just affect their own health, and that made all the difference.

One of the most frequently asked questions I got from these women – and they asked a lot of questions – was if it was safe to use low calorie sweeteners while pregnant. Many of them learned the calorie-saving advantages of drinking diet soda in their teens and developed the habit of sweetening their coffee with a no-cal sweetener packet, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, while in college. They wanted to continue these simple and satisfying weight control strategies during their pregnancy, but needed reassurance.

The advice I gave these clients of mine was the same whether they were pregnant, nursing or making decisions about what to feed their children. I told them low calorie sweeteners are safe for us all because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process for all food additives, including low calorie sweeteners, covers the entire population since food is equally available to everyone (while drugs require a prescription). If the FDA does feel certain consumers must be made aware of particular ingredients in the food supply, they require food companies to list them on their food labels. That is why there is a statement on products containing phenylalanine to alert those who must avoid it due to a condition called phenylketonuria (PKU).

I would then tap into their motivation by telling them the rest of their diet (or their child’s) matters much more than any one food, beverage or ingredient, such as low calorie sweeteners. My goal was to help them look at the big picture when it comes to food and nutrition, or as we dietitians like to say, takeThe Total Diet Approach. Eating the recommended servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, dairy and oils each day is essential to good health, yet easily overlooked if distracted by the latest diet fads.

If my clients asked for evidence to back up my claim that low calorie sweeteners are safe for them to use, I would then refer them to the information on sugar substitutes provided by the American Academy of Family Physicians, which addresses many of the questions families have about the use of low calorie sweeteners. If they still had doubts, I would encourage them to discuss their concerns with their personal physician since he or she is the most qualified person to discuss their health needs. I would remind them that some of the people making unfounded criticisms on the Internet have no medical or other professional qualifications, and that such claims on the Internet are not regulated by anyone.

You have to wonder what motivates some of them?

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.



Getting motivated to lose weight takes more than money

Weight Loss Motivation – Can Low Calorie Sweeteners Help?

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

If motivation could be sold as a pill, we would all eat right every day and get plenty of exercise. The fact that we don’t always do those things isn’t because we don’t understand the importance of a healthy diet and physical activity for good health; we just have a hard time staying on track day in and day out. That’s why figuring out what motivates you is a prescription worth filling!

Do you think being paid to lose weight would motivate you? Studies are beginning to show that money is an incentive for weight loss, but there’s more to the payoff than you might think.

A recent study done at the Mayo Clinic found participants who knew they would receive $20 each month if they reached their weight loss goals lost more weight than those who received the same education and behavior modification program but had no financial incentive. The interesting thing about money is that it not only motivated the subjects when they were earning it for losing weight, but also when they had to pay a $20 penalty any month they did not meet their goals. At the end of the program, those who paid penalties actually lost more weight than those who had no money at stake!

Another study based on an employee-sponsored weight loss program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found competing for a bigger financial reward was a better motivator than working toward individual goals. In this case the subjects were divided into two groups. Half of them had a chance to earn $100 a month if they met or exceeded their individual weight loss goals. The remaining participants were randomly assigned to teams with five people in each, but they were not told who their teammates were. What they were told is that only the people who met or exceeded their monthly goals would have a share of their group’s $500. This meant that if only two people achieved their goals one month, they would get $250 each. After six months the team participants lost more weight than those who had the chance to earn $1000 a month by reaching their individual goals. One reason for the success of team members is that they remained more motivated over the six months than those who did not have a chance at the bigger rewards.

While it is easy to conclude from these studies that all we need to do to get people to lose weight is offer them a financial incentive, that notion misses a very important piece of the puzzle. The money only serves as a motivation to do the work that leads to weight loss. For example, maybe some of the subjects in these studies set their alarm an hour earlier so they could go to the gym before work. Maybe they planned their weekly menus before food shopping or started keeping track of everything they ate. Maybe they started other calorie-lowering strategies like substituting a no calorie sweetener, like SPLENDA® Sweeteners, for sugar. So, while money was likely an incentive, what may have really helped people over time was the chance to form new eating and exercise habits. And once those new habits were in place, they became their own rich reward.

That’s what we have learned from members of the National Weight Control Registry who have successfully lost weight and kept it off for more than five years. Success comes to those who make changes they can live with. Using a low calorie sweetener, such as SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener is just one strategy, and it may be one you live with to help you reach your goals, too.

For further info. on this topic, read my previous blog post on this topic: “How Counting Calories is Like Saving Money.”

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

  • Driver SL, Hensrud D. Financial Incentives for Weight Loss: A One-Year Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. J Am Coll Cardiol.2013;61(10S):Moderated Poster Session
  • Kullgren JT et. al.(8). Individual versus group based financial incentives for weight loss. A randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2013;158(7):505-514


Motivation comes from within, the reasons are your own.

Getting Motivated to Eat Right

Why motivation is a critical step to eating right

Somewhere along the way, after counseling thousands of clients about food and nutrition, creating hundreds of handouts, writing books and articles, teaching classes, delivering presentations and providing media interviews, I realized that all of the valuable nutrition information I was disseminating did not automatically motivate those on the receiving end to eat better. The only real measure of success for all of my efforts has been the improved knowledge about food and nutrition people have gained from me. But seeing that knowledge put into practice is another matter entirely.

Finding the motivation to act on one’s knowledge of how to lead a healthier lifestyle is a private matter. It cannot be taught, but must be discovered within. And it must be a deeply powerful motivator because we must draw upon it every day, several times a day, to reap the benefits. Making good food choices just three out of seven days a week doesn’t cut it. Nor does exercising like a fiend after every binge.

My motivators for eating right and exercising regularly have been clear to me for most of my life. I had the motivation long before I had all of the knowledge acquired as a registered dietitian about the do’s and don’ts of living well. Those forces have never weakened their hold over me. With each new day and every new situation I have faced, the decision to make wise food choices and remain active have always won out over all other temptations and distractions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that my life is a bore – far from it. I just don’t lose sight of the prize.

Here’s what has motivated me to maintain a healthy body weight for over 50 years and better than average stamina, strength and flexibility for a woman my age:

Low pain threshold. I don’t like to hiccup, let along cough. Knowing certain behaviors can increase my risk for pain and discomfort is like an inoculation against living carelessly.

Belief in prevention. Most treatments involve some risk and lots of side effects, not to mention pain, so preventing injury and illness has always made more sense to me. By living clean I pay it forward.

Fear of hospitals. Maybe it was that first time I visited a hospital as a little girl and smelled that smell when I exited the elevator on the ward where my grandmother was a patient, but I can still recall wanting to run away as fast as I could. I have never gotten over my aversion to hospitals and do all that I can to avoid them.

If you haven’t found your personal motivation to eat smart and stay fit, this is where your journey should begin. If you have found it, I’d love to hear what works for you?