According to the World Health Organization (WHO), artificial sweeteners, commonly used as sugar substitutes, do not aid in weight loss and can have serious health implications. The organization released new guidelines advising against the use of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS). A systematic review of evidence suggests that NSS does not lead to long-term reduction in body fat for adults or children. Moreover, the review indicates potential adverse effects of long-term NSS use, including an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults.
While sweeteners are popularly consumed in products like diet soda, their healthiness has long been a subject of controversy. WHO’s director for nutrition and food safety, Francesco Branca, emphasized that substituting regular sugar with artificial sweeteners does not contribute to long-term weight control. Instead, people should explore other methods to reduce sugar intake, such as consuming naturally sweetened foods like fruit or unsweetened options.
The recommendation by WHO applies to everyone except those with pre-existing diabetes and encompasses all synthetic and naturally occurring sweeteners not classified as sugars. Common sweeteners include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia, and stevia derivatives.
The WHO highlighted that their guidelines are considered conditional due to the complexity and diversity observed in the studies analyzed, making it challenging to draw definitive conclusions regarding NSS use.