Sweeteners do not help to reduce body fat in the long term and may increase the risk of some diseases, so they are not recommended for the purpose of weight control, concludes the World Health Organization (WHO) in its new guidance on “Use of non-sugar sweeteners” released today.
The recommendation, says the 90-page document, is valid for all people except those who are diagnosed with diabetes, in which sweeteners can facilitate the control of blood sugar levels.
The standard refers to all sweeteners other than sugars, both artificial and natural. And it refers both to those found in beverages or processed foods and to those that are sold separately for citizens to use as sugar substitutes.
On the contrary, it does not apply to sweeteners found in medicines or in personal hygiene products such as toothpastes or skin creams.
Sweeteners that the WHO explicitly advises against using for weight control include, among others, saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, and stevia and its derivatives.
But the recommendation does not affect sweeteners that are sugars or derivatives of sugars. This includes low-calorie sugars and polyols, which are alcohols derived from sugars such as mannitol or glucitol, among others.
The WHO bases its new guidance on a review of the currently existing scientific evidence on sweeteners. 283 studies have been reviewed, of which 50 are randomized trials in which a part of the participants has received sweeteners and another part has not.
The results indicate that long-term consumption of non-sugar sweeteners may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Regarding their potential benefits, sweeteners have not been found to help control body weight in the long term.
The WHO has qualified its recommendation not to use sweeteners to control weight as conditional, and not as strong. This means that the scientific evidence available today is inconclusive.
With the data available so far, "people should consider other ways to reduce the consumption of free sugars, such as eating foods with natural sugars such as fruits, or sugar-free foods and beverages," Francesco Branca, director of Nutrition, said in a statement. and WHO Food Safety. “Sweeteners have no nutritional value. People should reduce sweet tastes from the diet starting at an early age to improve their health."