According to new World Health Organization guidance, using non-sugar sweeteners like sucralose and stevia might cause more harm than good.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released updated guidance advising against the use of non-sugar sweeteners for weight management.
While it is commonly advised to limit sugar intake, the use of artificial sweeteners may not provide a better alternative, according to experts.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), their updated guidance is based on a review of evidence that indicates using artificial sweeteners for weight management does not offer long-term benefits in reducing fat in both adults and children.
In fact, the review found that non-sugar sweeteners can potentially increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults. These findings emphasize the need for caution when considering the use of artificial sweeteners.
A a study published in the journal Nature earlier this year revealed a connection between the sugar substitute erythritol and several health concerns. The study suggested that erythritol might be associated with increased risks of stroke, blood clotting, heart attack, and even death.
In a French study published last year in the BMJ (British Medical Journal), researchers from France found a possible link between higher consumption of artificial sweeteners and an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.
The study specifically highlighted that the risk appeared to be highest among individuals who consumed aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose, which are commonly used artificial sweeteners.
“Replacing free sugars with NSS (non-sugar sweeteners) 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,” says 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 WHO’s recommendation applies to everyone except for those with pre-existing diabetes. Examples of artificial sweeteners the WHO advises against include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives.
In its updated guidance, the WHO said that replacing free sugars with natural sweeteners like fruit is a preferred alternative.
The WHO noted that how the public consumes non-sugar sweeteners is a major factor, as people may add foods and beverages to their diet and believe foods containing artificial sweeteners are “healthier.” The WHO said that there is evidence that people who consume non-sugar sweeteners consume more calories than those who do not.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends limiting added sugar intake to 12 teaspoons a day. The CDC said U.S. adults average 17 teaspoons a day of added sugar.