Ditch non-sugar sweeteners for weight control, says WHO

Have you switched to non-sugar sweeteners for your weight loss journey? It might be time to reassess your choice, according to a new guideline released by the World Health Organization (WHO).
View All Images non-sugar sweeteners
The World Health Organization has a new guideline about the use of non-sugar sweeteners. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Manasvi Jain Published: 16 May 2023, 15:44 pm IST
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Are you someone who thinks they’re doing their body a favour by opting for a diet soda instead of a regular one? Well, here’s news for you! The World Health Organization (WHO) has a set of newly released guideline on consumption of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) or more commonly known as artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes. WHO recommends against the use of NSS to control body weight or reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases. So, put down that can of diet soda and get ready to learn why NSS may not be the healthy alternative you thought it was!

For years, non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) have been marketed as a healthier alternative to sugar. Many people have turned to NSS as a way to reduce calorie intake and control weight. However, a new guideline released by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that NSS may not be the healthy choice that many people assume.

What are non-sugar sweeteners?

NSS are artificial sweeteners that are added to foods and drinks to make them taste sweet without adding calories. This includes sweeteners like acesulfame K, aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and others. They are commonly used in many manufactured foods and drinks that are labeled as ‘diet’ or ‘low-calorie’.

diet soda have nss
Think diet sodas are good for you? These contain artificial sweeteners which are bad for you. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

WHO guideline on non-sugar sweeteners

According to the WHO guideline, NSS don’t help in reducing body fat in adults or children in the long run, as per their latest guideline. Instead, using NSS may even cause harmful effects like an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even death in adults. The WHO came to this conclusion after reviewing all available evidence.

What are the exceptions to this guideline of WHO?

WHO points that the connection between NSS and disease outcomes might be complicated by different factors like personal habits or lifestyles. Due to this, the recommendation has been marked as conditional and may require further discussion in specific contexts to decide on any policies based on the guideline. This includes considering the age groups and how much NSS people consume in different countries.

WHO says that everyone, except people with diabetes, should avoid using NSS. However, this doesn’t apply to non-sugar sweeteners in personal care and hygiene products such as toothpaste, skin cream, and medications, or low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols that have calories and are not considered non-sugar sweeteners.

toothpaste with nss
Toothpastes with non-sugar sweeteners are safe to use. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Also read: Be cautious! Artificial sweetener and anxiety may have a connection

What can be done instead of using non-sugar sweeteners?

“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,” 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.”

fruits are natural sources of sugar
Reduce your NSS intake by including fruits for your sugar requirements. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Many people think that NSS are a better choice than sugar, the evidence shows that this may not be true. WHO advises that the best way to stay healthy is to have a balanced and varied diet, engage in physical activity, and consume NSS and sugar in moderation. Using NSS as a weight loss strategy is not a good idea. Instead, focus on establishing healthy eating habits to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases and improve overall health and well-being.

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About the Author

Manasvi Jain is a professional writer with a keen interest in spreading awareness about various health and wellness issues through her articles. She writes well researched articles by connecting with various doctors and health experts. ...Read More

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