Advice from WHO not to use sugar-free sweeteners for weight control

WHO has published an information guide on the use of sugar-free sweeteners.

Accordingly, WHO recommended that sugar-free sweeteners not be used for weight control or risk reduction of non-communicable diseases.

This recommendation was based on the findings of a systematic review of available evidence showing that the use of sugar-free sweeteners does not provide any long-term benefits in reducing body fat in adults or children.

The guidelines also noted that long-term use of sugar-free sweeteners can have undesirable effects in adults, such as an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death.

While WHO’s recommendation applies to all but people with pre-existing diabetes, it includes all synthetic and naturally occurring or modified non-nutritive sweeteners.

While this recommendation does not apply to personal care and hygiene products containing sugar-free sweeteners such as toothpaste, skin cream and medicines, or low-calorie sugars, it was stated that these are calorie-containing sugars or sugar derivatives and are not considered sugar-free sweeteners.

“Sugar-free sweeteners are not diet products”

Francesco Branca, WHO Director of Nutrition and Food Safety, whose views on the subject are included in the guide, stated that using sugar-free sweeteners instead of not using sugar does not help weight control in the long run.

“People should consider options such as consuming naturally occurring sugars such as fruit or sugar-free foods and beverages to reduce their sugar intake. Sugar-free sweeteners are not diet products and have no nutritional value,” Branca said.

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