Do Artificial Sweeteners Make You Hungrier?

By: EatingWell Editors

I’d hope not, since lots of people use artificial sweeteners to control calories. But the research on the topic isn’t so straightforward—in fact, the effect of these sweeteners on your appetite may depend on the form in which you’re consuming them.

A 2009 review concluded that artificial sweeteners in items with few if any calories, such as dietsoda, may heighten appetite.

Yet the same review (published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) also reported that artificial sweeteners eaten in combination with or in foods containing calories don’t increase appetite. Similarly, a new study in the journal Appetite showed that eating an artificially sweetened appetizer—versus one that’s sugar-sweetened—before a meal didn’t stoke participants’ appetites.

Since the 2009 review, two studies have come out on the effect on appetite of noncaloric, artificially sweetened beverages. The findings are conflicting—one study found that they increased levels of a feel-full hormone, while the other study showed no change.

There’s a lot of uncertainty, but if you want something sweet, choosing items that are artificially sweetened can help you save calories. However, for overall health, I agree with Barry Popkin, Ph.D., distinguished professor of global nutrition at the University of North Carolina that “it’s best to limit your consumption of added sweeteners”—artificial or not.