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New research presented at the European Congress on Obesity suggests that replacing sugar with low or no-calorie sweeteners could aid in weight management after rapid weight loss without increasing the risk of diabetes or heart disease. The SWEET project, which involved a one-year trial with adults who were overweight or obese, found that those who consumed sweeteners had greater diet satisfaction, improved mood, reduced cravings for sweet foods, and slightly better weight maintenance compared to those who did not use sweeteners. The study also found no significant differences in markers for diabetes and heart disease between the two groups.

The research, conducted by the University of Leeds, involved 341 adults and 38 children from Denmark, Spain, Greece, and The Netherlands. Participants followed a low-calorie diet for the first two months of the study to achieve rapid weight loss, after which they were split into two groups. Group A included sweeteners in their healthy diet with less than 10% of calories from added sugar, while Group B followed the same healthy diet without sweeteners. Questionnaires about diet, eating habits, physical activity, and quality of life were completed throughout the study, and markers for diabetes and heart disease were measured at specific intervals.

After 6 months, the group that included sweeteners reported greater diet satisfaction, improved mood, and fewer cravings for sweet foods compared to the group that avoided sweeteners. However, after 12 months, the group that avoided sweeteners showed an increased liking for other calorie-containing sweet foods. Despite these positive findings, there is still ongoing debate about the safety of sweeteners for human health and their effects on appetite, weight management, and obesity. The World Health Organization recommends more research on the long-term health effects of sweeteners.

While the WHO has suggested that replacing sugar with non-sugar sweeteners may not effectively aid in long-term weight control and could potentially increase the risk of certain health issues, the SWEET project contradicts these findings by indicating that incorporating sweeteners into a healthy, low-sugar diet could promote weight management without increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. The study emphasizes the positive impact of sweeteners on diet satisfaction, mood, and feelings of control over food cravings, potentially helping with long-term weight maintenance after weight loss.

Overall, the SWEET project suggests that consuming sweeteners as part of a healthy, low-sugar diet could aid in weight management and improve overall diet satisfaction, mood, and control over food cravings. This new research provides valuable insight for healthcare professionals working with clients on improving healthy eating habits in the long term. With more studies needed to fully understand the long-term health effects of sweeteners, the positive findings from this trial present promising results for individuals seeking low-calorie alternatives to regular sugar in their diets.

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