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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A systematic review on the effect of sweeteners on glycemic response and clinically relevant outcomes

Natasha Wiebe1, Raj Padwal1, Catherine Field2, Seth Marks3, Rene Jacobs2 and Marcello Tonelli1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, 13-103 Clinical Sciences Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2G3 Canada

2 Department of Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science, 410 Agriculture/Forestry Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2P5 Canada

3 Department of Pediatrics, 8213 Aberhart Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2J3 Canada

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BMC Medicine 2011, 9:123  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-123

Published: 17 November 2011

Abstract

Background

The major metabolic complications of obesity and type 2 diabetes may be prevented and managed with dietary modification. The use of sweeteners that provide little or no calories may help to achieve this objective.

Methods

We did a systematic review and network meta-analysis of the comparative effectiveness of sweetener additives using Bayesian techniques. MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL and CAB Global were searched to January 2011. Randomized trials comparing sweeteners in obese, diabetic, and healthy populations were selected. Outcomes of interest included weight change, energy intake, lipids, glycated hemoglobin, markers of insulin resistance and glycemic response. Evidence-based items potentially indicating risk of bias were assessed.

Results

Of 3,666 citations, we identified 53 eligible randomized controlled trials with 1,126 participants. In diabetic participants, fructose reduced 2-hour blood glucose concentrations by 4.81 mmol/L (95% CI 3.29, 6.34) compared to glucose. Two-hour blood glucose concentration data comparing hypocaloric sweeteners to sucrose or high fructose corn syrup were inconclusive. Based on two ≤10-week trials, we found that non-caloric sweeteners reduced energy intake compared to the sucrose groups by approximately 250-500 kcal/day (95% CI 153, 806). One trial found that participants in the non-caloric sweetener group had a decrease in body mass index compared to an increase in body mass index in the sucrose group (-0.40 vs 0.50 kg/m2, and -1.00 vs 1.60 kg/m2, respectively). No randomized controlled trials showed that high fructose corn syrup or fructose increased levels of cholesterol relative to other sweeteners.

Conclusions

Considering the public health importance of obesity and its consequences; the clearly relevant role of diet in the pathogenesis and maintenance of obesity; and the billions of dollars spent on non-caloric sweeteners, little high-quality clinical research has been done. Studies are needed to determine the role of hypocaloric sweeteners in a wider population health strategy to prevent, reduce and manage obesity and its consequences.