high fructose corn syrup

Artificial Sweeteners Part I - Do They Make You Fat?

One surefire way to start a debate is to make any statement about artificial sweeteners, whether it be in favor of or opposed to them. Let's take a moment to set aside our feelings on the matter and objectively look at the facts on some of the health claims made against artificial sweeteners. Today, we will talk about if artificial sweeteners make you fat.
(I am neither a registered dietitian nor a medical doctor. This should not be taken as dietary or medical advice. I am merely reading, interpreting, and summarizing the research for you.)

There have been prevalent rumors of artificial sweeteners causing weight gain and/or halting weight loss but are they true?

Before actually diving into the studies, I want to address the rumor of "hidden Calories" in artificial sweeteners causing weight gain. Popular artificial sweeteners on the market today such as aspartame, sucralose, and stevia  are either non-nutritive (zero Calories) or have a negligible amount of Calories (1-2 Cal per serving) so the that rumor has no basis. Now let's look at those studies. 

One study looked at the possibility of aspartame increasing appetite which would increase Calorie intake, which could cause weight gain. [1] This study consisted of three experiments. 

Experiment 1 looked at the difference in Calorie intake when a sucrose (table sugar) based drink, aspartame based drink, or water was served with the participants' lunches. In order to look at a possibly delayed effect, experiment 2 had the same setup, except the drinks were given 30 minutes prior to participants' lunches. Lastly, in experiment 3, the drinks were given 60 minutes prior to participants' lunches.


  • In the first experiment, both the water group (1077.3 Cal) and aspartame group (1123.8 Cal) consumed significantly less Calories at lunch than the sucrose group (1211.7). There was no significant difference between the water group and aspartame group.
  • In the second experiment, there was again a significant decrease in the aspartame group (1148.8 Cal) and water group (1198.6 Cal) from that of the sucrose group (1262.4 Cal)
  • In the third experiment, no statistical differences were found between any group, although I will point out that the aspartame group still consumed the fewest Calories. (Aspartame group = 1150.4 Cal, water group = 1225.2 Cal, sucrose group = 1299.6 Cal)

Another study looked at the effect of drinking soda sweeted with aspartame or high-fructose corn syrup on food intake and body weight. [2] Three groups were given either high fructose corn syrup soda, aspartame sweetened soda, or no soda. The participants in the two drink groups were instructed to drink 4 beverages per day. No other dietary restraints were given. Females in the high fructose corn syrup group gained 2.14 pounds and the males gained 1.15 pounds. Females in the aspartame group lost 0.55 lbs and the males lost 1.04 pounds.

It is important to note here that no other dietary restraints were given during the trial, suggesting that the weight-loss was either directly or indirectly produced by the aspartame flavored drink. My guess is that the carbonation in the aspartame drink provided a fullness factor that caused the subjects to eat less. If that was the case, the high fructose corn syrup drink would have experienced the same thing; however, they were also getting lots of Calories through their drinks that more than compensated for having eaten less. 


One study conducted a one year weight loss treatment program that consisted of a 12 week weight loss phase followed by a 40 week weight maintenance phase. [3] Additionally, groups were told to drink 24 oz of either water or diet soda daily for the entire year. The diet drink group lost an average of 13.69 pounds and the water group lost 8.29 pounds. The weight loss for participants who completed the full year was 18.5 and 7.47 for the diet drink and water groups respectively. Here we have another study stating that artificially sweetened beverages aide in weight loss. I'd also like to note that this study looked at the blood work of each group and there were no differences between the water and diet drink groups.

Lastly, I looked at a meta-analysis (basically a bunch of studies combined into one big study) looking at the effectiveness of aspartame for weight control. [4] For the sake of blog length, I will just give the results for the 16 studies. Nine studies had weight loss as a goal and a significant reduction in weight was seen in all of them. Two Studies looking at weight maintenance followed up with participants at one year and three years. At three years the men who consumed aspartame products had maintained an average weight loss of 11.24 pounds whereas the men who didn't, regained all the previous weight that was lost.

As you can see there is no basis to the rumor of weight gain being caused by artificial sweeteners in healthy populations. If you'd like to learn more you can hop onto a free strategy call with yours truly by simply clicking the button below.

That's all for this time! God bless you AND your family and I will see you Friday!


[1] Barbara Jean Rolls, Sion Kim, Ingrid C. Fedoroff. (1990). Effects of drinks sweetened with sucrose or aspartame on hunger, thirst and food intake in men. DOI: 10.1016/0031-9384(90)90254-2
[2] Michael G Tordoff and Annette M Alleva. (1990). Effect of drinking soda sweetened with aspartame or high-fructose corn syrup on food intake and body weight. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 5 1:963-9.
[3] John C Peters et al. (2015). The effects of water and non‐nutritive sweetened beverages on weight loss and weight maintenance: A randomized clinical trial. Obesity. 2015 Dec 26. doi:  10.1002/oby.21327
[4] Anne de la Hunty, Sigrid Ann Gibson, Margaret Ashwell. (2006). A review of the effectiveness of aspartame in helping with weight control. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-3010.2006.00564.x