WHO finds ‘no long-term benefit’ to using artificial sweeteners

If using artificial sweeteners is part of your weight loss journey, the World Health Organization suggests you stop.

A review of all available data suggests non-sugar sweeteners offer no “long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children.”

Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s department of nutrition and food safety, told CNN: “Replacing free sugars with non-sugar sweeteners does not help people control their weight long-term. We did see a mild reduction of body weight in the short term, but it’s not going to be sustained.”

WHO’s systematic review brings together the most current scientific evidence on the health effects of non-sugar sweetener use.

Although the review found possible negative effects from long-term use of artificial sweeteners, “this recommendation is not meant to comment on safety of consumption,” Branca said.

“What this guideline says is that if we’re looking for reduction of obesity, weight control or risk of noncommunicable diseases, that is unfortunately something science (has) been unable to demonstrate,” he said. “It’s not going to produce the positive health effects that some people might be looking for.”

Nutrition researcher Ian Johnson, emeritus fellow at Quadram Institute Bioscience, formerly the Institute of Food Research, in Norwich, United Kingdom, added: “This new guideline is based on a thorough assessment of the latest scientific literature, and it emphasises that the use of artificial sweeteners is not a good strategy for achieving weight loss by reducing dietary energy intake.”

However, he said, that doesn’t mean you should use sugar instead. Cutting out both real and artificial sugars is the best way to go.

Both randomized controlled trials and observational studies — 283 in all —were included in WHO’s meta-analysis.