Sweeteners do not have long-term effect on weight loss, says World Health Organisation

People should avoid using sweeteners for weight control, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended.

Low or no calorie sweeteners are used instead of sugar to sweeten a variety of foods and drinks.

Many people also add non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) to their own food and beverages as a sugar alternative, with the aim to prevent becoming overweight or obese.

Now, the WHO has found using sweeteners “does not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children”.

Although using NSS in the short-term may lead to minor weight loss, there could be “undesirable effects” linked to long-term use, such as an increased risk of type two diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and death.


“NSS are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value,” Francesco Branca, director for nutrition and food safety at the WHO said.

“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.

“People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health.”

The organisation reviewed the data from 283 studies conducted in adults, children, pregnant women or mixed populations.

As a result, it released a new conditional guideline recommending people – except those with diabetes – to avoid using NSS to control body weight or reduce the risk of non-communicable (non-infectious) diseases.

But authors said further research is needed.

Dr Duane Mellor, registered dietitian and senior lecturer at Aston Medical School, said sweeteners may still have a place as a “stepping stone” to help people reduce their sugar intake.

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