New guidelines from the UN health agency released on Monday have recommended against uses non-sugar sweeteners (NSS).
The recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) is based on a review of available evidence suggesting that artificial sweeteners does not help control body mass or reduce the risk of weight-related diseases.
Common NSS include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and other stevia derivatives.
“Replacing free sugar with NSS does not help with long-term weight control. People need to consider other ways to reduce free sugar intakesuch as consuming foods with naturally occurring sugars, such as fruit, or unsweetened foods and drinks,” said Francesco Branca, WHO Director of Nutrition and Food Safety.
“NSS are not important dietary factors and have no nutritional value. People should reduce dietary sweetness altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health.”
Deadly consequences in the long term
The WHO also noted “potential side effects from long-term use” of NSS, such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The results of the review also suggest that there may be other dangerous consequences such as the increased risk of premature death among adults.
The recommendation against the use of NSS applies to all people except for individuals with pre-existing diabetes and includes all synthetic and naturally occurring or modified non-nutritive sweeteners not classified as sugars found in manufactured foods and beverages, or sold on their own to be added to foods and beverages by consumers.
Other sugar derivatives
WHO recommendation does not apply to personal care and hygiene products that contain non-sugar sweeteners – such as toothpaste, skin cream and medicines – or to low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols (polyols), which are sugars or sugar derivatives that contain calories, and are not considered NSS.
Because the association between consumption of NSS and disease outcomes can be determined subjectively due to “baseline characteristics” of study participants, the recommendation has been “assessed conditional,” according to the WHO’s guideline development processes.
This signals that policy decisions based on the WHO recommendation may be required significant discussion in specific contextslinked to, for example, the extent of consumption in different age groups, from country to country.
The WHO NSS guidelines are part of a suite of existing and upcoming healthy dietary guidelines that aim to establish lifelong healthy eating habitsimprove diet quality and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases worldwide, the UN health agency said.