The World Health Organization (WHO) has released new guidelines discouraging the use of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) for weight loss. According to the WHO, the available evidence suggests that NSS does not provide any long-term benefits in reducing body fat in both adults and children. In addition to weight loss, the WHO also advises against using NSS to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases.
The organization has found evidence indicating potential undesirable effects associated with long-term NSS use, including an increased risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and type 2 diabetes among adults.
The recommendation, however, is considered “conditional” due to the complex nature of NSS use and the baseline characteristics of study participants, which may confound the associations between NSS and disease outcomes. The WHO suggests that policy decisions based
on this recommendation may require substantive discussions in specific contexts. Francesco Branca, MD, PhD, the director for nutrition and food safety at the WHO, emphasizes that replacing free sugars with NSS does not contribute to long-term weight
control. Instead, individuals should consider alternative ways to reduce their free sugarintake, such as consuming naturally occurring sugars found in fruits or opting for
unsweetened food and beverages. The WHO highlights that NSS are not essential dietary factors and lack nutritional value. Therefore, reducing overall sweetness in one’s diet, starting from an early age, can help improve health.
The guidance, based on a systematic review and meta-analysis,
applies to everyone except those with diabetes. It encompasses all synthetic and naturally occurring or modified NSS found in processed foods and beverages, as well as those sold separately for consumers to add
to their own foods and drinks.
It’s worth noting that the guidelines do not extend to personal hygiene and care products
containing NSS, such as skin cream, medications, and toothpaste. The guidance also excludes
low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols, as they contain calories and are not considered nonsugar sweeteners