WHO warns against using non-sugar sweeteners for weight control

In a recently published recommendation on non-sugar sweeteners, the World Health Organization (WHO) advises against using non-sugar sweeteners to manage body weight or lower the risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The advice is supported by a thorough evaluation of the existing data, which found that neither adults nor kids who use non-sugar sweeteners see any long-term benefits in terms of body fat reduction. The review’s findings also imply that prolonged use of non-sugar sweeteners may have unfavorable effects, such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular illnesses, and adult mortality.

“In the long run, replacing free sugars with non-sugar sweeteners does not aid in weight management. According to Francesco Branca, WHO Director for Nutrition and Food Safety, people should think about various strategies to minimize their intake of free sugars, such as eating foods like fruit that naturally contain sugars or choosing unsweetened foods and beverages. “Non-sugar sweeteners have no nutritional value and are not necessary dietary components. To promote health, people should completely cut out sugar from their diets, beginning at a young age.

All artificial, naturally occurring, or modified non-nutritive sweeteners that are not classified as sugars and are present in manufactured foods and beverages or sold separately for consumers to add to foods and beverages are included in the recommendation, with the exception of those who have a history of diabetes. Aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia, and stevia derivatives are examples of common non-sugar sweeteners .

The advice is not applicable to items like toothpaste, skin lotion, and pharmaceuticals that contain artificial sweeteners, nor is it applicable to low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols (polyols), which are sugars or sugar derivatives that contain calories and are therefore not considered non-sugar sweeteners .

Because complicated patterns of non-sugar sweeteners usage and baseline characteristics of research participants may obscure the relationship between artificial use and disease outcomes, the recommendation has been conditionally appraised in accordance with WHO guidelines-development procedures. This suggests that policy choices made in light of this advice might necessitate in-depth consideration in particular country contexts, linked for instance to the level of consumption in certain age groups.

The WHO recommendation on non-sugar sweeteners is one of a number of current and upcoming dietary recommendations that are intended to promote lifelong healthy eating habits, enhance dietary quality, and lower the risk of NCDs globally.

More about non-sugar sweeteners

Non-sugar sweeteners, also known as artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes, are substances used to add sweetness to food and beverages without the added calories of sugar. These sweeteners are designed to provide a sweet taste without significantly raising blood sugar levels, making them popular among people who are watching their sugar intake or managing conditions like diabetes or obesity.

They are appealing because they provide a sweet taste without contributing to overall calorie intake or blood sugar levels. However, it’s worth noting that some individuals may experience a slight aftertaste with certain sweeteners, and they may have different effects on taste perception for different people. Additionally, there is ongoing debate and research regarding the potential long-term health effects of these sweeteners, although regulatory authorities worldwide have deemed them safe for consumption within specified limits.

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