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Consuming non-sugar sweeteners is dangerous, warns WHO

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against consuming non-sugar sweeteners to prevent unhealthy weight gain and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.

Common non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives.

The WHO’s guidelines state that non-sugar sweeteners do not offer any long-term benefits in weight control for adults and children. Instead, the use of such NSS can lead to “undesirable effects” including increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mortality in adults.

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.

“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 intakes, such as consuming food with naturally occurring sugars, like fruit, or unsweetened food and beverages,” said Francesco Branca, WHO Director for Nutrition and Food Safety.

“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.”