Think twice before drinking a diet soda, or using no-sugar sweeteners in your morning coffee. The news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), published findings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that said, “Artificial sweeteners, used to replace sugar in a vast range of products, do not help in losing weight and can have serious health effects.”
The story reported that WHO’s new guidelines that were released on Monday advises against consuming non-sugar sweeteners (NSS). The United Nations’ health agency released a statement saying, “use of NSS does not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children.”
Artificial sweeteners have courted controversy in the past. A Lounge story published in September 2021 had cited studies that highlighted that certain ingredients in artificial sweeteners are harmful for the gut and can cause obesity as well as cardiovascular diseases. WHO has similar undesirable findings culled from a ‘systemic review of available evidence’. The results “suggest that there may be potential undesirable effects from long-term use of NSS, such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults”.
These guidelines, WHO points out, were considered conditional because it’s challenging to yield absolute results ‘due to the diversity of participants and complexity of NSS-use seen in the studies it had examined.’
Artificial sweeteners gained popularity due to low-calorie claims. The 2021 Lounge story quoted a Bangalore-based clinical nutritionist Anju Sood as saying, “The calorific value of these artificial sweeteners is very close to zero.”
Most diabetics replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, but the outcome in the long-run, according to WHO, isn’t ‘desirable’. Francesco Branca, WHO's director for nutrition and food safety, said in a statement, “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.”