September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Each month of the year has it’s own health observations to bring light to the wellness issues that impact our society.  With children going back to school, this September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Growing obesity rates affect not only adults, but children and adolescents, too. Currently one out every five children in the United States is obese, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately with increasing obesity rates we also see an increase in related health conditions such as heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, asthma and sleep apnea among children. Not only are obese children at a higher risk to become obese adults; but the risk factors associated with weight are more likely to be severe.  These children also have a higher risk of being the target of bullying, having lower self-esteem and potential depression and behavioral issues.
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What 22,000 Adults Had to Say About Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Weight Loss

Research on regular users of low-calorie sweeteners has found they have better diets than nonusers. If that isn’t incentive to use them, I don’t know what is! Of course, adding a low-calorie sweetener to your coffee isn’t all it takes to become healthy and thin, but studies show it can be part of a healthy lifestyle for many people and helps them reach their goals. And that’s exactly what the latest study by researchers Adam Drewnowski and Colin Rehm at the University of Washington found.

Since other research has reported an association between low-calorie sweeteners and obesity by simply looking at who was using them and their weight classification, Drewnowski and Rehm wanted to answer the question, “What came first, the weight gain or the use of low-calorie sweeteners?”

In their study, they went back 10 years to see peoples’ weight histories and their intent, or motivation, to lose weight during that time. What they found is the use of low-calorie sweeteners was common among people who were experiencing weight fluctuations and who were trying to return to a lower weight. In fact, nearly one-third of adults trying to lose or maintain weight used low-calorie sweetened products.

As anyone who has lost weight knows, it is easy to regain. When that starts to happen, there is a tendency to resume the weight loss strategies that helped in the past, like using low-calorie sweeteners. Even people experiencing weight gain for the first time and those with the early warning signs of diabetes may decide to use low-calorie sweeteners as a first step to reduce their caloric intake or added sugars in their diet. In both these examples, the low-calorie sweetener was selected after the problem of weight gain or prediabetes was identified, not the other way around.

Asking the Right Questions

Here’s how the study was done.

Information was collected from more than 22,000 adults about their use of low-calorie sweeteners in the past 24 hours, their intent to lose or maintain weight over the past 12 months and their 10-year weight history. Height and weight records were used to classify the participants as normal weight, overweight or obese during the period under investigation and a questionnaire was completed to determine if they had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Drawing the Right Conclusions

What the researchers found was the use of low-calorie sweeteners was associated with self-reported intention to lose weight during the previous 12 months, indicating it was a strategy being selected to help with weight loss.   They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners, and  this was true for participants at any weight, not just those who were overweight or obese. This finding provides the strongest evidence yet that low-calorie sweeteners do not cause weight gain, but are chosen to help prevent it.

They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners.

A final conclusion drawn from this research, based on the analysis of the 10-year weight change data, is that obese individuals may have switched to diet beverages made with low-calorie sweeteners after they gained weight.  This supports the possibility that use of low-calorie sweeteners may be a useful “marker” to identify people have experienced weight gain and are trying to reduce it.

What Does This Mean For You?

We now have better evidence than ever that low-calorie sweeteners are deliberately chosen by individuals as a weight management strategy and do not contribute to weight gain. Using low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar is a simple step anyone can take to help reduce their caloric intake as part of a healthy lifestyle.


Robyn FlipseRobyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

Add Some Flavor to Your Weight Loss Plan

Everyone knows that losing weight means making changes in the way we eat and our level of activity. Eating less + moving more = losing weight. But we also need to hydrate. Many times, calories from beverages seem to escape our attention. A glass of wine here, a soda there, and a sweet tea for good measure… we consume calories mindlessly. Before you know it, you’ve drunk way more calories than intended and in turn have blown through your allotment for the day.

So, what kind of beverage choices can you make that taste great and allow you to stay on track? Well, water of course! It’s the obvious choice, right?  But let’s be honest – for some, water can be a bit boring. And when you are on a weight loss plan, getting bored with choices can lead you to a rut. Strictly sticking with water may be hard to sustain, making weight loss even more difficult.

The secret to long term success in weight management is the ability to marry a healthy diet with your favorite personal food preferences. Luckily we have products available, like stevia, that can help you find or create beverages that you enjoy while cutting calories.

There has been a lot of controversy about the impact of drinking diet beverages and weight loss. You may have seen news segments and articles on the internet claiming that diet drinks can cause you to crave sweets and worse – gain weight! However, you can’t always believe what you read and headlines can often be misleading. Frequently, these articles with eye-catching titles are more about internet “click bait” and less about the real story.

Click bait aside, the truth is that there is a significant amount of research supporting that diet drinks are in fact a tool in losing weight. One recent study published in the June 2014 issue of the Obesity, looked to assess the impact of diet beverages on weight loss. The 12-week clinical trial directly compared the effects of drinking diet drinks to drinking water alone while on a calorie controlled diet. Low and behold, at the conclusion of the study, not only did both groups lose weight – but the diet drinkers actually lost more! The diet drinkers lost an average of 13 pounds, while the water drinking group lost 9 pounds.

James O. Hill, Ph.D., executive director of the University of Colorado Anchutz Health and Wellness Center, and co-author of the study has commented that not only did the diet beverage drinkers lose more weight, but they also reported being significantly less hungry. So, if you have been struggling to increase your water intake and reduce your liquid calories; replacing caloric beverages with diet drinks can be a safe and effective way to help you bridge the gap and reduce calories to promote weight loss.

Here are some suggestions for using stevia to naturally sweeten your beverages.

  • Try adding a few drops of lemon stevia to a glass of sparkling water and drop in a few frozen raspberries to keep it cold. You will have a pretty and refreshing drink for the same amount of calories in a regular glass of water.
  • Sweet and Soothing. Do you crave something sweet after dinner? Combine a cup of skim milk with one tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder and add a drop of vanilla stevia to taste. This is an excellent replacement of a high calorie dessert at only 90 calories, and milk provides a great source of calcium and protein.
  • Green Tea. Many of us look to soda or sugary coffee drinks to get through the midday slump. When that “3 p.m. feeling” comes on, try tea for a nutritious and healthy alternative. Try brewing a cup of jasmine green tea and adding a packet of stevia. This can give you the boost you need and save you calories!



Carolyn ReynaudCarolyn Reynaud, MS, RD, LD is a licensed registered dietitian and a paid contributor to She received her BS in nutrition from Michigan State University and her Masters and Certificate in Public Health from Georgia State University. She has experience working in several avenues of health care including corporate wellness, clinical disease management, research, and health promotion. She has been working as a health coach specialist for close to 6 years, where she counsels patients on preventative healthcare and helps them meet their health goals. Follow her on Twitter @ReynaudCari.


Keep the Holiday Spirit, Not the Seasonal Weight Gain – Preparing Favorite Holiday Foods with Stevia Instead of Sugar Cuts Calories

December often means a calendar packed with holiday parties and high-calorie foods. While in the thick of the holiday season, many can find themselves getting thicker around the middle.

Weight gained over the winter holidays is not typically lost during the following year. Experts say that the average one pound gained between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can add up to five, ten, even 20 extra pounds over the years. However, making some new changes to favorite recipes can help cut calories and keep weight gain at bay. Award-winning author, culinary expert and internationally-recognized chef Amy Riolo recommends substituting stevia, a zero-calorie sweetener, in place of sugar in some holiday classics, such as pumpkin pie.

“With the holidays here, it’s always a struggle to eat right. By replacing the added sugar with stevia, we’ve already cut way down on calories,” said Riolo. In the new video series at, Riolo prepares several recipes with stevia, including pan-Seared ahi tuna, fresh fruit yogurt parfait and whole wheat oat apple cranberry muffins as well as the holiday favorite. The website also features other holiday favorites with stevia as a sugar substitute such as cheesecake, brownies and red velvet cupcakes.

While used abroad for many years, stevia has more recently caught on in the United States as a sweetener. And in November, the European Commission approved stevia as a sweetener in foods and beverages. “Stevia provides the food and beverage industry with a wider repertoire for delivering zero-calorie sweetness and offering additional variety and choice for consumers,” said Haley Stevens, Ph.D., President of the Calorie Control Council, a non-profit international trade association of manufacturers of low-calorie and sugar-free foods and beverages.

Made from leaves of a plant of the Chrysanthemum family, the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) is native to Paraguay and is grown today in many countries around the world. Steviol glycosides are found in the leaves of the stevia plant and each has a particular taste profile and sweetness intensity. Rebaudioside A is one of the many steviol glycosides in stevia leaves that provide sweetness.

As a safe zero calorie alternative to sugar in foods and beverages, experts also say stevia works well for individuals with diabetes because it doesn’t affect blood glucose levels.

For more information about stevia and how it can be used in recipes, visit


The Calorie Control Council, established in 1966, is an international non-profit association representing the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry. Today it represents 40 manufacturers and suppliers of low-calorie, low-fat and light foods and beverages, including the manufacturers and suppliers of more than a dozen different dietary sweeteners, fat replacers and other low-calorie ingredients.