A shopper shops at a grocery store in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, United States, March 19, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)
GENEVA – The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday issued a recommendation against the use of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) for weight control or for reducing the risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).
The WHO guideline is based on the findings of a systematic review of the available evidence, which suggests that the use of NSS does not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children. Results of the review also suggest 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.
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"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," Francesco Branca, WHO director for nutrition and food safety, said.
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
"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 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.
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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 has been assessed as conditional following WHO processes for developing guidelines, 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, which means that policy decisions based on this recommendation may require substantive discussion in specific country contexts, linked, for example, to the extent of consumption in different age groups.
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The guideline 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 NCDs worldwide.