WHO Recommends Against Use Of Non-Sugar Sweeteners To Control Body Weight, Reduce NCD Risk


The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended against the use of non-sugar sweeteners to control body weight, or to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases, in a newly released guideline. After a systematic review of evidence which suggests that the use of non-sugar sweeteners does not provide any long-term benefit in decreasing body fat in adults or children, the WHO made this recommendation. 

According to the findings of the review, the long-term use of non-sugar sweeteners may result in potential undesirable effects such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults, the WHO said in a statement. 

Who is the recommendation not applicable to?

The WHO has said that the recommendation is applicable to all people, except those with pre-existing diabetes. The non-sugar sweeteners which the WHO has advised people not to use include all naturally occurring, synthetic and modified non-nutritive sweeteners which are not classified as sugars. These sweeteners are used in manufactured foods and beverages, and also sold on their own.

Common non-sugar sweeteners

Aspartame, cyclamates, saccharin, stevia, stevia derivatives, acesulfame K, advantame, neotame, and sucralose are some common non-sugar sweeteners. 

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Which products is the recommendation not applicable to?

The WHO has stated that the recommendation is not applicable to personal care and hygiene products containing non-sugar sweeteners. These products include skin cream, toothpaste, and medications

Sugar alcohols and low-calorie sugars are not considered non-sugar sweeteners because they are sugars or sugar derivatives containing calories. 

The UN health agency has assessed the recommendation as conditional, because the link observed between non-sugar sweetener use and disease outcomes after analysing the reviews could have been driven by complicated patterns of non-sugar sweetener use, and baseline characteristics of the participants. 

Foods to consume instead of non-sugar sweeteners

Quoting Francesco Branca, WHO Director for Nutrition and Food Safety, the statement said replacing free sugars with non-sugar sweeteners does not help with weight control in the long-term, and people need to consider other ways to reduce free sugar intake, such as consuming food with naturally occurring sugars. These foods include fruits, and unsweetened foods and beverages.

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