WHO study on non-sugar sweeteners: Basics Explained

The World Health Organization (WHO)  has released new conditional guidelines advising against non-sugar sweeteners(NSS) — which includes both artificial sweeteners and natural alternatives like stevia — for weight control or reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

  • The study found swapping out sugar for non-sugar sweeteners didn’t help with weigh control long-term.
  • The WHO’s report says there was evidence that higher consumption of non-sugar sweeteners led to a lower body weight and body mass index (BMI) in short-term randomised controlled trials.
  • The WHO says there “may be potential undesirable effects from long-term use of non-sugar sweeteners” including an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and mortality in adults. The exception to this recommendation is people with pre-existing diabetes.


Non-sugar sweeteners have been developed as an alternative to sugars and are widely used both as an ingredient in pre-packaged foods and beverages and added to food and beverages directly by the consumer.

For the purpose of the WHO guidelines, the term “non-sugar sweetener” applies to all synthetic and naturally occurring or modified non-nutritive sweeteners that are not classified as sugars. Sugar is the most popular natural sweetening flavour ingredient. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) honey, agave and maple syrup are among the popular natural substitutes of sugar.

Here’s a few of the more common examples: stevia; saccharin sucralose

Natural sugars are mainly extracted from animal or plant sources, and they are derived as a result of a natural process such as photosynthesis in a plant. These sugar substitutes are low in calories, low in fructose and taste very sweet.

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