WHO says 'no' to non-sugar sweeteners in latest guidelines; 4 important things to know
World Health Organisation's latest guidelines warn against the use of non-sugar sweeteners to lose weight or reduce risk of non-communicable diseases.
The use of non-sugar sweeteners has increased in the past many years as they are considered a low-calorie and healthier alternative to sugar. World Health Organisation's latest guidelines warn against the use of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) to lose weight or reduce risk of non-communicable diseases adding that its long-term use is linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, among others in adults. Common non-sugar sweeteners include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives. (ALSO READ: 6 reasons to skip artificial sweeteners; experts on serious side effects)
The difference between artificial sweetener and natural sweetener
Artificial sweetener refers to a substance that is made chemically to mimic sugar. They have zero calories and sometimes are even sweeter than table sugar. Aspartame, saccharin and sucralose are some of the examples of artificial sweetener. Honey, agave nectar, maple syrup are some of the examples of natural sugar but many of them undergo processing. As for stevia, while it made with the extracts of leaves of the stevia plant, it is highly processed and people may not reap full benefits of it.
Here are 4 important points to understand from WHO guidelines regarding use of non-sugar sweeteners:
1. Non-sugar sweeteners do not really help with weight loss
The guidelines said that while people feel having non-sugar sweeteners can help with weight loss, it's not the case and they should be consuming naturally occurring sugar present in fruits.
"Replacing free sugars with NSS does not help with weight control in the long term. 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,” says Francesco Branca, WHO Director for Nutrition and Food Safety.
2. Non-sugar sweeteners do not have any nutritional value
The guidelines added that 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," said Branca.
3. Non-sugar sweeteners not helpful for people with diabetes
The recommendation applies to all people except individuals with pre-existing diabetes and includes 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.
4. What about sugar in toothpaste?
The WHO guidelines do not apply to sugar and sugar derivatives in personal care and hygiene products containing NSS, or to low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols (polyols), which are sugars or sugar derivatives containing calories and are therefore not considered NSS.
SIDE-EFFECTS OF NON-SUGAR SWEETENERS
Dr Ambrish Mithal, Chairman, Endocrinology and Diabetes, Max HealthCare, talked about the side-effects of non-sugar sweeteners in his recent tweet.
1. They do not help in losing weight in non diabetics so not a good weight loss strategy.
2. Adverse effects with long-term use have been reported as associations, not as clear cause and effect.
3. Never use in childhood or pregnancy
4. Others: Avoid as far as possible. If your sweet tooth bothers you a lot, restrict to occasional use.
5. American, European, Indian diabetes associations do not prohibit them. No need to panic if you have been a user.
6. Do not forget sugar is a big culprit in lifestyle diseases. Do not lapse back into increased sugar consumption.
7. Natural sugar substitutes like jaggery have the same amount of calories as white sugar.
8. The trick is to train our taste buds to avoid longing for sugar.
And this starts in childhood.