The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the use of non-sugar sweeteners is not effective and recommends not using them as they are found ineffective in controlling body weight.
Releasing new guidelines on non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) yesterday WHO further said that non-sugar sweeteners are no longer effective in reducing the risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).
WHO’s recommendation is based on the findings of a systematic review of the available evidence which suggests that the use of NSS does not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children. The WHO also warns that there may be potential undesirable effects from the long-term use of these non-sugar sweeteners. Non-common Non-Communicable Diseases such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults will be adverse effects may increase with the long-term use of them.
Commenting on the new guidelines WHO’s Director for Nutrition and Food Safety said that replacing free sugars with NSS does not help with weight control in the long term. People need to consider other ways to reduce free sugars intakes, such as consuming food with naturally occurring sugars, like fruit, or unsweetened food and beverages.
“NSS are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value. People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health.” He further said.
According to the Media Release issued by the WHO the recommendation applies to all people except individuals with pre-existing diabetes and includes all synthetic and naturally occurring or modified non-nutritive sweeteners that are not classified as sugars found in manufactured foods and beverages, or sold on their own to be added to foods and beverages by consumers.
Common NSS include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives.
The recommendation does not apply to personal care and hygiene products containing NSS, such as toothpaste, skin cream, and medications, or to low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols (polyols), which are sugars or sugar derivatives containing calories and are therefore not considered NSS.
Because the link observed in the evidence between NSS and disease outcomes might be confounded by baseline characteristics of study participants and complicated patterns of NSS use, the recommendation has been assessed as conditional, following WHO processes for developing guidelines. This signals that policy decisions based on this recommendation may require substantive discussion in specific country contexts, linked for example to the extent of consumption in different age groups.
The WHO guideline on NSS is part of a suite of existing and forthcoming guidelines on healthy diets that aim to establish lifelong healthy eating habits, improve dietary quality and decrease the risk of NCDs worldwide.