The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised against the use of non-sugar sweeteners to control body weight or reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.
The recommendation is based on the findings of a review of the available evidence which suggests that use of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) does not provide any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children.
The findings also suggest that there may be potential undesirable impact from long-term use of NSS, such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults, the WHO said.
”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 intake, such as consuming food with naturally occurring sugars, like fruit, or unsweetened food and beverages,” said Francesco Branca, WHO Director for Nutrition and Food Safety.
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”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,” Branca said in a statement.
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.
These sweeteners are 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 guideline 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, according to the WHO.
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 non-communicable diseases (NCDs) worldwide.