·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Health & Medicine

WHO Warns Against Using Artificial Sweeteners in Food Products

— June 8, 2023

WHO releases new controversial guideline regarding artificial sugars.

Artificial sweeteners are a go-to for people trying to lose weight, but recently the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised against it in a newly released guideline, citing possible health risks.

In the guideline release, the suggestion is made based on a systematic review of the scientific literature. Besides not helping control body fat in the long run, artificial sweeteners may also increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and premature death. WHO also noted that the recommendation is not to encourage regular sugar use but to minimize the overall amount of sugar in a person’s daily diet.

There are other ways to reduce sugar intake, including only eating foods with naturally occurring sugars, such as fruits or unsweetened beverages and food, according to Francesco Branca, nutrition and food safety director at WHO.

Branch explains that artificial sweeteners have no added nutritional value, and people should minimize their sugar intake from a young age to improve their health. This recommendation applies to everyone except diabetic individuals, who may still find sugar substitutes helpful.

WHO Warns Against Using Artificial Sweeteners in Food Products
Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

The guidance is specifically devised for individual sweetener packets that people drizzle into their morning java along with a range of other sugar substitutes that companies are increasingly adding to processed edible items, such as snack bars, bread, yogurts, and cereals. The most widely used artificial sweeteners listed by WHO include aspartame, acesulfame K, advantame, neotame, cyclamates, sucralose saccharin, stevia, and stevia byproducts.

Interestingly, the Calorie Control Council released a statement saying that it disagrees with WHO’s recommendation and that the safety of artificial sweeteners has been long established. It claims that low- and zero-calorie sugar substitutes have been proven to promote oral health, manage weight, and cut back on sugar and calorie intake. It further stated that WHO’s recommendation fails to provide the complete picture related to the effectiveness of these ingredients and the announcement has the probability of negatively affecting public health.

Nutrition studies are consistently improving, and research is being updated with current data. Analyzing the effects of saturated fats and other areas of people’s diets may offer more insight into the general reasons behind certain health problems that have long been blamed on sugar.

The recommendation provided by the World Health Organization doesn’t directly impact any country’s policy. The FDA, for instance, might adhere to this guidance and incorporate its concerns or change labeling. However, it is not under any obligation to do so. The FDA didn’t instantly respond to the recommendation. However, the International Sweeteners Association, a nonprofit organization representing the industry, called the recommendation a disfavor to consumers.

Currently, WHO’s recommendation is deemed conditional, meaning that policy decisions based on this may need detailed discussion in certain country contexts associated with the level of consumption in various age groups, for example.

The recommendation does not extend beyond hygiene and personal care, such as medications, skincare products, and toothpaste. Moreover, it doesn’t include sugar alcohol, which comes from sugar itself.


World Health Organization Warns Against Using Artificial Sweeteners

Health Benefits & Established Safety of Low And No Calorie Sweeteners Supported By Decades Of Scientific Experience

WHO advises not to use non-sugar sweeteners for weight control in newly released guideline

Join the conversation!