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Non-sugar sweeteners and associated concerns.


  1. Guidelines by WHO on use of non-sugar sweeteners.


  1. New guidelines were issued by WHO on the use of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) such as aspartame, saccharin, stevia, etc.
  2. It highlights that non-sugar sweeteners should not be used for weight control and reducing risk of non-communicable diseases (NCD).
  3. Notably, NSS popularized after 2015, when WHO issued statement that high intake of free sugars is linked to weight gain and obesity.

Non-Sugar Sweeteners:

  1. NSS are low or no-calorie alternative to free sugars. It is claimed that they can aid in weight loss and controlling blood glucose in diabetes patients.
  2. WHO includes acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia, and stevia derivatives as NSS.

WHO’s Analysis:

  1. An analysis was conducted on almost 283 studies on adults and children.
  2. It was found that ‘higher intake’ of NSS results in a 76% increase in risk of obesity and a 0.14 kg/m2 increase in BMI (Body Mass Index).
  3. Moreover, a long-term use of NSS can potentially increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, chronic kidney disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
  4. However, experts point out that the evidence cited by the WHO is categorized as moderate, low or very low certainty.
  5. Moderate certainty implies that WHO is moderately confident about the risks and the true effect is likely to be close to the estimate.
  6. The quality (nutritional profile) and quantity of diet are also important for the study.

Associated Concerns:

  1. As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), one in nine women and one in 25 men are obese.
  2. There is a higher risk of diabetes in obese people.
  3. Moreover, there are around 25 million people living with pre-diabetes in India. They can further lead to heart attacks in their thirties and forties.
  4. It is suggested that non-sugar sweeteners are known to have an effect on the gut and bones. They also cause bloating.

Way Ahead:

  1. WHO recommends foods with minimal processing and unsweetened food and beverages.
  2. Moreover, weightloss should not be equated with switching from sugars to NSS.
  3. Rather it should depend on reduced portion size or energy intake of food.
  4. There should also be deliberations among policy makers before accepting these guidlines.
  5. Efforts should also be made to tweak taste preferences and eating behaviours of people, especially youngsters.