In May 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines on NSS (Non-Sugar Sweeteners). The new guidelines recommend against the use of Non-Sugar sweeteners to control body weight or to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases.
Nowadays sugar substitutes are included as a part of healthy eating habits. The sugar substitutes are also known as artificial sweeteners or non-nutritive sweeteners. These substitutes are added to foods and beverages to sweeten without adding calories or increasing blood sugar levels. Some of the examples of sugar substitutes are aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, and stevia. These artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than sugar and are generally consumed by people who want to reduce calorie intake and manage blood sugar levels or control weight. Aspartame is used in low-calorie and sugar-free products. It is made up of phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. Saccharin is used in diet sodas, candies, and baked foods. It is derived from benzoic sulfilimine and is several hundred times sweeter than sugar. Sucralose is used in low-calorie and sugar-free products.
The recent new guidelines recommended by the WHO state that, based on the findings of a systematic review of the available evidence which implies that the use of Non-Sugar Sweeteners does not confer any long-term advantage in lowering body fat in adults or children. The outcomes of the review also indicate that long-term use of NSS may have probable undesirable effects such as increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults.
The recommendations of the WHO apply to all people except individuals with preexisting diabetes and include all synthetic and naturally ensuing or modified nonnutritive sweeteners that are not classified as sugars that are found in manufactured foods and beverages or vend on their own to be added to foods and potables by consumers. The common NSS includes acesulfame K, aspartame, advantage, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia, and stevia derivatives.
The recommendation does not apply to personal care and hygiene products that contain NSS, such as toothpaste, skin cream, and medications, or low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols (polyols), which are sugars or sugar derivatives containing calories thus they are not considered as NSS.
According to some research studies, the regular intake of artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body’s natural ability to regulate calorie intake and appetite, which likely results in weight gain. NSS-like aspartame usage has been associated with headaches, migraines, and other adverse relations in sensitive people.
Francesco Branca, WHO Director of Nutrition and Food Safety says that replacing free sugars with NSS does not help with control in the long term. People need to assess other ways to reduce free sugar intake, such as consuming food with naturally ensuing sugars, like fruit, or unsweetened food and potables. He also says that NSS are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value. People should lower the sweetness of their diet altogether, starting early in life, to enhance their health.
(Input from various sources)