WHO advises against nonsugar sweeteners for weight control

A new guideline from the World Health Organization (WHO) on nonsugar sweeteners (NSSs) recommends not using them to control weight or to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. These sweeteners include aspartame, acesulfame K, advantame, saccharine, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives.

The recommendation is based on the findings of a systematic review that collected data from 283 studies and found that the use of NSSs does not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children. The review also suggests that the long-term use of NSSs may have potential undesirable effects.

While short-term NSS use results in a small reduction in body weight and body mass index in adults without significant effects on other measures of adiposity or cardiometabolic health, on a long-term basis, higher NSS intake is associated with increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and all-cause mortality in adults. Results from case-control studies also suggest an association between saccharine intake and bladder cancer, but significant associations for other types of cancer were not observed. Finally, results for pregnant women suggest that higher NSS intake is associated with increased risk for preterm birth and, possibly, adiposity in offspring.

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