On Monday, the World Health Organization released new guidelines warning the public not to use non-sugar sweeteners for weight loss, revealing that it may actually do more harm to the body than good.
New findings showed that artificial sweeteners — like aspartame, a sugar substitute found in Diet Coke — don’t do much to reduce your waistline. In fact, long-term use of these fake sugars could even potentially increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mortality in adults, WHO said.
“Replacing free sugars with NSS (non-sugar sweeteners) does not help with weight control in the long term,” said Francesco Branca, WHO’s director of the department of nutrition for health and development, in a statement.
According to WHO, some of the most common non-sugar sweeteners include “acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives.”
Branca advised that people should instead try to focus on eating foods with natural sugar, like fruit.
“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 beverage,” he continued. “NSS (non-sugar sweeteners) 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.”
WHO noted that these new guidelines are applicable to everyone except for those who have preexisting diabetes.
The review was compiled through 283 studies, according to CNN, but some of them were observational, which means that they just show an association.
The new guidelines include a wide array of non-sugar sweeteners, too — including ones that are naturally occurring.
However, a statement put out by the Calorie Control Council, which is an “international association representing the low and reduced-calorie food and beverage industry,” maintained that these artificial sweeteners were still safe for consumption.
“A substantial body of evidence shows that low- and no-calorie sweeteners provide effective and safe options to reduce sugar and calorie consumption,” said Robert Rankin, president of the Calorie Control Council. “This is supported by rigorous reviews of this evidence by the world’s most highly regarded health and regulatory agencies, who have validated the role of these ingredients.
“Along with exercise and a healthy diet low- and no-calorie sweeteners are a critical tool that can help consumers manage body weight and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.”
The International Sweeteners Association also pushed back on the new guidelines in an emailed statement to The Post.
“There has been an overwhelming amount of scientific literature supporting low/no calorie sweeteners’ utility for weight management, including the WHO-commissioned systematic review itself,” the organization stated.
“The International Sweeteners Association believes it is a disservice to not recognize the public health benefits of low/no calorie sweeteners and is disappointed that the WHO’s conclusions are largely based on low certainty evidence from observational studies, which are at high risk of reverse causality.”
WHO advised that the new recommendations encompassed “all synthetic and naturally occurring or modified non-nutritive sweeteners that are not classified as sugars found in manufactured foods and beverages, or sold on their own to be added to foods and beverages by consumers.” However, it does not apply to artificial sweeteners that are found in hygiene products, like toothpastes, skin creams or medications.
It also does not apply to “low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols (polyols),” which are technically sugars or sugar byproducts that do contain calories.
This is not the first time that non-sugar sweeteners have been at the forefront of a health debate.
Last year, a study found that artificial sweeteners could potentially cause diabetes because they can “alter the body’s microbes,” resulting in a change in blood sugar levels.
“In subjects consuming the non-nutritive sweeteners, we could identify very distinct changes in the composition and function of gut microbes and the molecules they secret into peripheral blood,” Eran Elinav, senior author and professor at the National German Cancer Center, told South West News Service at the time.
Another study out of the Medical College of Wisconsin last April found that these sugar substitutes could potentially affect the liver’s ability to detoxify itself.