12 January - 20 June 2016

Study finds consumption of saccharin does not lead to weight gain

revious studies have reported that artificial sweeteners promote more weight gain than caloric sweeteners. It is thought that artificial sweeteners “weakens an animal’s pre-existing association between sweetness and calories.” A rat study published in Appetite has investigated this claim using a method based on a 2008 study which found that rats fed yogurt with a non-nutritive sweetener gained more weight than those fed yoghurt with glucose.

Previous studies have reported that artificial sweeteners promote more weight gain than caloric sweeteners.  It is thought that artificial sweeteners “weakens an animal’s pre-existing association between sweetness and calories.”

A rat study published in Appetite has investigated this claim using a method based on a 2008 study which found that rats fed yogurt with a non-nutritive sweetener gained more weight than those fed yoghurt with glucose.  Unlike the 2008 study, this current study also investigates palatability noting that “if glucose-sweetened yogurt is more palatable than saccharin-sweetened yogurt, consuming glucose yogurt might, via a contrast effect, decrease the palatability of chow relative to other groups, leading to a slower weight gain in the rats given glucose.”  It also uses a control and investigates the effect of supplementing the rat’s diet with sweet and high energy biscuits.  This stage tested whether the “provision of an energy-dense sweet biscuit would augment any effects of saccharin on food intake and weight gain.”

Boakes et al. prepared 3 types of natural yogurts - unsweetened, sweetened with 20% glucose and sweetened with 0.3% saccharin.  In a preliminary experiment involving 18 human participants the researchers investigated palatability.  The glucose and saccharin yogurts were given similar rating for sweetness however the glucose yogurt scored better for aftertaste.   

Boakes et al. then conducted two rat experiments based on Swithers & Davidson 2008 research (S&D).  In the first experiment, male rats were split into three groups: a glucose group, saccharin group and a control group. Throughout the experiment all rats had unrestricted access to chow and water

At stage 1(weeks 1-3) acceptability and preference for the yogurts was tested.  All rats were exposed to all 3 types of yogurt.  Stage 2 (weeks 4-8) was carried out to “weaken any sweet-calories association in the saccharin group and strengthen such an association in the glucose group”.  In this stage, the glucose group received alternative samples of plain and glucose-sweetened yogurt and the saccharin group received alternative samples of plain and saccharin-sweetened yogurt. The control group receiving only plain yogurt.  At stage 3, compensation testing, chow intake was recorded after consumption of either 5 g of Chocolate Ensure pre-meal or no pre-meal.  At weeks 11-15, Stage 4, long-term compensation, the scientists examined whether the rats reduced their chow intake when give a sweet biscuit. After intervention the rats were sacrificed and glucose and insulin levels recorded and fat pads excised and weighed. 

Based on the amount of yogurt consumed and choice, glucose-sweetened yogurt was found to be more palatable than the saccharin-sweetened yogurt.  There was no difference between the saccharin group and control group for body weight gain, fat pad mass, fasting glucose, and insulin.  For the glucose group after week 11 the rats were the heaviest and at 16 weeks they had the largest fat pad and some insulin sensitivity impairments. 

The second experiment aimed to test whether the initial exposure to sweetened yogurt could explain the inconsistency between the weight gain effects in the first experiment and in the S&D 2008 study.  The control group was excluded in this experiment. Stage 1 were intermixed days of the individual group’s respective yogurt (either glucose sweetened yogurt or saccharin sweetened yogurt) and unsweetened yogurt.  Stage 2 (week 3-4) investigated the effect of a pre-meal on chow intake, and the third stage (week 5-7) involved giving the rats their respective group yogurt plus two nice biscuits. 

Rats consumed significantly more sweetened than unsweetened yogurt.  The rats consumed significantly less chow on days when sweet yogurt was available.  This was greater in the glucose group.   As with the previous experiment, saccharin had no detectable effect on body-weight regulation.  Glucose was however reported to have an effect on fat mass but unlike experiment 1, no effect was found regarding body weight.

In discussion the authors reiterate their findings stating that “in summary adding saccharin had no detectable effect on body-weight regulation, whereas the effect of glucose on fat pad mass were consistent with previous studies reporting more harmful effect of sugars compared to non-nutritive sweeteners.”

RSSL's Product and Ingredient Innovation Team, has considerable expertise in the selection of sweeteners (both carbohydrate and high potency) to optimise sweetness profiles to cost requirements in a broad range of product categories.  Evaluation of new sweeteners for their market potential is also available.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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