WHO Advises Against the use of Sweeteners and Warns About its Risks

If you think light sweeteners are better than sugar, you could be wrong. The World Health Organization has suggested not using sweeteners for weight loss. We tell you about its dangers.

sugar in a spoon

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Sweeteners are frequently recommended and sold as an alternative to reduce sugar consumption in weight loss processes. Likewise, they are promoted as healthier alternatives, which is why athletes, diabetics, older adults or people with chronic diseases consume them regularly. However, in recent years its use has begun to be questioned, as various investigations have found dangers associated with its use.

This Monday, May 15, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a new guideline on non-sugar sweeteners. The agency advises against its use to control body weight or reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases. According to the report, prolonged consumption of non-sugar sweeteners was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality in adults, in various studies.

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The most common sweeteners of this type are acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia, and stevia derivatives. It should be noted that although stevia is a plant, its sweetener is also produced artificially and for this reason it is included in the list. Likewise, the WHO also suggests reducing the consumption of ultra-processed foods, which are the ones that usually have this type of sweetener. Likewise, it points out that to sweeten the diet, the best alternative is to consume foods with natural sugars such as fruit. The recommendations regarding the non-use of these sweeteners apply to the entire population, including children and pregnant women, except those with pre-existing diabetes.

A scientific trial published last year found that consumption with sucralose and saccharin affected the glycemic response in healthy adults. Likewise, it found that non-nutritive sweeteners altered the microbiota.

Artificial sweeteners and little regulation: dangerous combination

The WHO guideline only includes a type of sweetener that does not contain calories, better known as synthetic non-nutritive sweeteners, among which it leaves out sugar alcohols or polyols such as erythritol. However, this food additive, approved in more than 60 countries, also has the eyes of science on it. This year, researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, published research in the journal Nature pointing out the health dangers of erythritol. "The widely used artificial sweetener erythritol impacts platelet function and is associated with major cardiovascular events," the research notes.

However, it also indicated that it is considered safe by many regulatory organizations, including the FDA. The problem is that it is classified as a food and not a drug, so the tests do not include routine clinical trials. Therefore, the research group called for greater regulation of this type of substance. This is essential because there are many foods that, by carrying the "sugar-free" label, create the sensation of being healthy products. However, they may contain any of these sweeteners, of which their contraindications or possible effects are not indicated.

The best recommendation is to avoid sweetened foods, either with sugar or artificial sweeteners. For this reason, it is necessary to get used to eating fresh food and enjoying its natural flavor from an early age. It is necessary to remember that sugar has an addictive effect, so it is best to avoid it.

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