Non-sugar sweeteners and associated concerns.
- Guidelines by WHO on use of non-sugar sweeteners.
- New guidelines were issued by WHO on the use of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) such as aspartame, saccharin, stevia, etc.
- It highlights that non-sugar sweeteners should not be used for weight control and reducing risk of non-communicable diseases (NCD).
- Notably, NSS popularized after 2015, when WHO issued statement that high intake of free sugars is linked to weight gain and obesity.
- 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.
- WHO includes acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia, and stevia derivatives as NSS.
- An analysis was conducted on almost 283 studies on adults and children.
- 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).
- Moreover, a long-term use of NSS can potentially increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, chronic kidney disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
- However, experts point out that the evidence cited by the WHO is categorized as moderate, low or very low certainty.
- Moderate certainty implies that WHO is moderately confident about the risks and the true effect is likely to be close to the estimate.
- The quality (nutritional profile) and quantity of diet are also important for the study.
- As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), one in nine women and one in 25 men are obese.
- There is a higher risk of diabetes in obese people.
- 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.
- It is suggested that non-sugar sweeteners are known to have an effect on the gut and bones. They also cause bloating.
- WHO recommends foods with minimal processing and unsweetened food and beverages.
- Moreover, weightloss should not be equated with switching from sugars to NSS.
- Rather it should depend on reduced portion size or energy intake of food.
- There should also be deliberations among policy makers before accepting these guidlines.
- Efforts should also be made to tweak taste preferences and eating behaviours of people, especially youngsters.