The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a new guideline recommending against using non-sugar sweeteners to lose weight or to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.
The recommendation comes after a “systemic review of available evidence” that indicates no long-term benefit for losing body fat in children or adults, and may contribute to type 2 diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and mortality in adults, a release from WHO said.
Franco Branca, WHO director of nutrition and food safety said that reducing free sugars with NSS does not help with weight control over 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,” Branca said.
“Non-sugar sweeteners are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value,” Branco said. “People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health.”
“Our study shows that when participants consumed an artificially sweetened beverage with an amount of erythritol found in many processed foods, markedly elevated levels in the blood are observed for days – levels well above those observed to enhance clotting risks,” said the same study’s chief author Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., chairman for the Department of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Sciences in Lerner Research Institute and co-section head of Preventive Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic.
WHO stressed the new recommendation includes all synthetic and naturally occurring or modified non-nutritive sweeteners not classified as sweeteners found in manufactured foods and beverages or sold alone to consumers to add to food and beverages. The recommendation does not apply to people with pre-existing diabetes, WHO said. It added that common non-sugar sweeteners include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives.
It does not apply to products such as toothpaste, skin cream, and medications, or to low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols, also known as polyols, which are sugar or sugar derivatives that contain calories and not classified as NSS.
The WHO said this guideline is one of many that will be published offering existing and forthcoming guidelines on healthy diet. The coming publication of the guidelines aims to help establish lifelong healthy eating habits, improve dietary quality and decrease risk of non-communicable diseases.