18.06.2024

Do not use sweeteners for weight control

Swapping sugar for sweeteners will not help you lose weight and may cause health problems, new World Health Organization guidelines say.

The advice suggests people shouldn’t turn to non-sugar sweeteners like aspartame, which is found in Diet Coke, in a bid to lose weight or prevent diet-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Other popular ones include saccharin and stevia.

Instead, they should consider eating foods with naturally occurring sugars, such as fruit, as well as stick to unsweetened foods and drinks.

The new recommendation is based on a systematic review of evidence which found use of non-sugar sweeteners ‘doesn’t confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children’.

Long-term observational studies suggested that people who consume lots of sugar alternatives – found in everything from diet drinks to toothpaste – were at higher risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The advice suggests people should not turn to non-sugar sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, or stevia in a bid to lose weight or prevent diet-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes

The advice suggests people should not turn to non-sugar sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, or stevia in a bid to lose weight or prevent diet-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes

But it noted some clinical trials did suggest replacing sugars with sweeteners could lead to weight loss, but only in the short term.

It warned there may ‘potential undesirable effects’ from the long-term use of sugar substitutes such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack or stroke.

‘Replacing free sugars with NSS does not help with weight control in the long term,’ said Francesco Branca, the WHO’s director for nutrition and food safety.

‘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.

‘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.’

While artificial sweeteners have been deemed safe for human consumption, there has been a growing concern over their widespread use in foods such as ready meals, cakes and cereals.

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