The UN agency said its advice on non-sugar sweeteners was part of a suite of existing and forthcoming guidelines on diets that aim to establish lifelong healthy eating habits
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday released a new guideline on non-sugar sweeteners (NSS), saying they don’t confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children.
The WHO advised against using NSS to manage body weight or lower the risk of developing non-communicable illnesses (NCDs).
The UN agency said its advice on NSS was part of a suite of existing and forthcoming guidelines on diets that aim to establish lifelong healthy eating habits, improve dietary quality and decrease the risk of NCDs worldwide.
However, the recommendation 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.
The recommendation is based on the findings of a systematic review of the available evidence which suggests that there may be potential undesirable effects from long-term use of NSS, such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults.
“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.
“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.”
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.
Common NSS include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives.
“Because the link observed in the evidence between NSS and disease outcomes might be confounded by baseline characteristics of study participants and complicated patterns of NSS use, the recommendation has been assessed as conditional, following WHO processes for developing guidelines,” WHO said.
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