World Health Organization warns nonsugar sweeteners may increase risk of diabetes and heart disease

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The World Health Organization said Monday it is advising people not to use nonsugar sweeteners for weight control, warning that they may increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and mortality in adults.

The agency said a systematic review of the available evidence suggests nonsugar sweeteners do not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children.  

“NSS are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value,” said Francesco Branca, WHO director for nutrition and food safety, in a statement. “People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health.”

The news was greeted with dismay by the International Sweeteners Association, whose members include PepsiCo Inc.
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,
Celanese Corp.
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+4.02%
,
Cargill and Tate & Lyle PLC
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among others.

“The ISA joins others, including relevant government agencies around the globe, who have responded to the public consultation on the draft guideline expressing their concerns about the conclusions and rationale used by WHO,” the association said in a statement.

“ISA agrees with the UK’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities that commented “the guideline may go too far” and with the Australian government’s Department of Health and Aged Care who wrote that “the recommendation may result in undesirable health outcomes for some individuals.”

The WHO could only conclude a “conditional recommendation,” said the statement, because it did not include all available evidence.

That means it’s not “scientifically rigorous, nor based on a robust evidence base or supported by the evidence presented in the WHO-commissioned systematic review itself,” it added.

The new guidance applies to all people apart from those already living with diabetes, and includes all synthetic, naturally occurring or modified non-nutritive sweeteners that are not classified as sugars, including acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives, said the WHO statement.

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