Do not use sugar-free sweeteners for weight management, WHO advises

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a new guideline on non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) on Monday, advising against the use of NSS to control body weight or reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The recommendation is based on the findings of a systematic review of the available evidence suggesting that the use of NSS confers no long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children. The results of the review also suggest that potentially unwanted effects may occur with long-term use of NSS, such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mortality in adults.

‚ÄúReplacing free sugars with NSS does not help weight management in the long run. People should consider other ways to reduce free sugar intake, such as consuming foods with naturally occurring sugars, such as fruit, or unsweetened foods and drinks. NSS are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value. People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting at a young age, to improve their health,” Francesco Branca, WHO director for nutrition and food safety, said in a statement.

The recommendation applies to all people except those 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 for consumption. foods and drinks to be added. beverages by consumers. Common NSS are acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives.

The recommendation does not apply to personal care and hygiene products containing NSS, such as toothpaste, skin cream and medicines, or to low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols (polyols), which are sugars or sugar derivatives that contain calories and are therefore not considered NSS , says the WHO.

Because the association observed in the evidence between NSS and disease outcomes may be confounded by baseline characteristics of study participants and complicated patterns of NSS use, the recommendation has been assessed as conditional, according to WHO guidelines development processes. This indicates that policy decisions based on this recommendation may require a substantive discussion in specific country contexts, for example in relation to the level of consumption in different age groups.

The WHO guideline on NSS is part of a series of existing and future guidelines on healthy nutrition that aim to establish lifelong healthy eating habits, improve nutritional quality and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases worldwide.

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