Sweeteners, Soda, and Appetite: The Debate Continues

Over the years, caloric sweeteners, particularly those in sodas or soft drinks, have taken the brunt of the blame for the obesity epidemic. Recently the argument about sweeteners and appetite has come to the forefront again, leaving people to once again question whether sweetened foods, juices, and sodas are responsible for our insatiable appetites.

Many of the studies around sweeteners and satiety focus on pure glucose or pure fructose.

a large sundae, fountain type glass filled wit...

a large sundae, fountain type glass filled with fountain soda (root beer?), soda straw (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In general, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not realistic to look at how pure glucose and pure fructose affect hunger and appetite hormones in the body. This is because pure glucose and fructose are rarely consumed on their own; instead, they are almost always eaten in combination. Despite the misconception that high-fructose corn syrup is high in fructose, it is actually nearly equivalent to sucrose, table sugar. This fact has been agreed upon by even the greatest critics of HFCS. There have also been multiple studies that have looked at levels of the appetite-related hormones leptin, ghrelin, and insulin. Leptin is an appetite-suppressing hormone and ghrelin is a hunger-stimulating hormone produced by the stomach. It has been found that sugar, HFCS, and one percent milk all have the same effect on these hormones and feelings of satiety and fullness.

Dietitians and health professionals have said it time and again— the bottom line when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight is balancing your energy intake and energy expenditure. Soft drinks and sweetened foods are not the cause of the obesity epidemic. Sweeteners, like any other ingredient, can be eaten and enjoyed in moderation.

Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian, member of the CRA RD Panel, and founder of Nutritioulicious™, a private practice in Manhattan. She has extensive experience as a nutrition writer, editor, and speaker, and has been featured as a nutrition expert on NBC, Fox 5, and NY1, and in national magazines, including Glamour, Fitness, and Woman’s Day. Jessica is a member of the American Dietetic Association and Greater NY Dietetic Association, and she consults for several food and beverage companies.

Members of the RD Panel are paid consultants to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), but their statements and opinions are their own. RD Panel members provide general dietary information, but you should consult your own physician or dietitian for advice concerning your particular circumstance.

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