The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently advised against using non-sugar sweeteners for weight loss. This recommendation is based on a systematic review that found no long-term benefits in reducing body fat.
While there may be a mild reduction of body weight in the short term, the potential undesirable effects from long-term use of sugar substitutes, such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, outweigh any benefits.
The WHO recommendation includes low or no-calorie synthetic sweeteners and natural extracts, but newer sweeteners such as stevia and monkfruit have less published research in scientific literature.
The article highlights tips for reducing added sugars in the diet, including choosing fruit for dessert and being aware of added sugars in unexpected foods.
This article aims to provide an objective and informative overview of the WHO recommendation, the risks associated with sugar substitutes, and practical tips for reducing added sugars in the diet.
The World Health Organization advises against using non-sugar sweeteners for weight loss due to a systematic review finding no long-term benefits in reducing body fat. The review, which included 283 randomized controlled trials and observational studies, found that while there may be a mild reduction of body weight in the short term, this is not sustained.
In addition, using sugar substitutes may lead to potential undesirable effects from long-term use, such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The low impact of non-sugar sweeteners on reducing body weight and calorie intake when compared with sugar has led the WHO to recommend implementing policy changes that include using low or no-calorie synthetic sweeteners and natural extracts.
Stevia and monkfruit are newer sweeteners with less published research in scientific literature. However, people can learn to reduce their dependence on free sugars and non-nutritive sweeteners by cutting back on sugar gradually and including more protein and fibre-rich foods in their diet.
Risks of Sugar Substitutes
Potential undesirable effects have been associated with using non-sugar sweeteners, including an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. These risks concern individuals who consume these sweeteners as a substitute for sugar, hoping to reduce their calorie intake and promote weight loss.
A systematic review of 283 studies found that non-sugar sweeteners mildly reduced body weight in the short term but were not sustained. Moreover, these sweeteners had a low impact on reducing body weight and calorie intake compared to sugar.
To add to the health concerns, non-sugar sweeteners have been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and death from heart disease. Erythritol, a sugar substitute commonly found in sugar-free gum, has been associated with blood clotting, stroke, heart attack, and early death. People with existing risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, were twice as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke if they had the highest levels of erythritol in their blood.
Consequently, it is important to consider the long-term effects of non-sugar sweeteners before incorporating them into our daily diet.
Tips for Reducing Added Sugars
One effective strategy for decreasing the amount of added sugars in one’s diet is to choose fruit as a dessert option. Fruits are a natural source of sweetness and provide essential nutrients like fibre and vitamins. They are also lower in calories than traditional desserts like cakes, cookies, and ice cream, which are high in added sugars.
Another helpful tip for reducing added sugars is to check food labels. Many processed foods, even savoury ones like sauces and dressings, contain added sugars. Learning to read nutrition labels and identifying the different names for added sugars can help individuals make informed decisions about what they are consuming.
It is important to remember that relying on sugar substitutes is not recommended by the World Health Organization, as they do not provide long-term benefits for weight loss and may even have potentially undesirable effects. Therefore, choosing whole, nutrient-dense foods and minimizing consuming processed and packaged foods can help reduce added sugars.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any sugar substitutes that the WHO recommends?
The World Health Organization does not recommend any specific sugar substitutes for weight loss. However, natural sweeteners like stevia may be a better option than artificial ones like Splenda, which have been linked to potential health risks.
How do sugar substitutes affect gut health?
Limited research suggests that sugar substitutes may alter the gut microbiome and contribute to metabolic syndrome. Further studies are needed to fully understand the impact of sugar substitutes on gut health and overall health outcomes.
Can sugar substitutes cause addiction?
Research has shown that sugar substitute addiction is possible, as it can still activate the reward centres in the brain. Additionally, excessive consumption of sugar substitutes can lead to health risks such as increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Do sugar substitutes have any impact on mental health?
Limited research on the relationship between sugar substitutes and mental health or emotional well-being exists. More studies are needed to determine if there is a link between the consumption of sugar substitutes and mental health outcomes.
Are there any benefits of using sugar substitutes other than weight loss?
Natural alternatives to sugar substitutes may provide options for taste preferences. Still, there is limited evidence for benefits beyond weight loss. Taste preferences can be learnt and altered without the use of non-nutritive sweeteners.