Sugar substitutes like stevia and sucralose are often used for weight loss and weight management. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently released new guidelines that discourage the use of non-sugar sweeteners for these purposes. The guidelines recommend using non-sugar sweeteners to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic lung disease. It also recommends avoiding fees.
These recommendations apply to not only adults but also to children, pregnant women, and lactating women, but not to individuals with pre-existing diabetes. The WHO’s guidelines are based on extensive reviews suggesting potential effects of long-term sugar substitute consumption. Among these adverse effects are an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality in adults.
Non-sugar sweeteners include synthetic sweeteners and naturally occurring or processed non-nutritive sweeteners, such as acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamate, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia, and stevia derivatives. While some non-sugar sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than real table sugar, they do not provide nutritional value.
A few years ago, the WHO published guidelines to limit the intake of conventional free sugars to reduce the risk of unhealthy weight gain and dental problems. Since then, there has been an increase in the use of sugar-free sweeteners as an alternative. However, replacing the free sugars in processed foods with non-sugar sweeteners does not improve dietary quality at all. Instead, WHO recommends the substitution of naturally occurring sweeteners packaged with other beneficial nutrients, such as fruits, that help improve dietary quality and minimally processed, sugar-free foods and beverages.
Natural sugars are present in all carbohydrates, but they are rich in other beneficial nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and protein. Examples of natural sugars include the sugars found in fruit and milk. Added sugars are anything added to food, including table sugar and corn syrup. The largest source of added sugar in the United States is sugar-sweetened beverages, which have little satiating effect.
Manufacturers list their ingredients by weight, so it’s important to prioritize meals that are packed with whole, real foods and to always read the labels when buying processed foods. If you find sugar listed first, it may be best to consider buying another treat. In general, it’s not necessary to eliminate all sugar and non-sugar sweeteners from your diet, but it’s important to enjoy nature’s candies—fruits—on a regular basis for a naturally sweet treat.
In summary, experts suggest avoiding non-sugar sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, and stevia if you want to lose weight, manage weight, or reduce your risk of chronic disease. Instead, prioritize natural sugars, such as those found in fruit, and unsweetened foods and drinks. To improve overall health, reducing the sweetness in your diet is recommended.