A study into the health benefits of non-sugar sweeteners compared with sugar has found that there is “no compelling evidence” to suggest they can help consumers lose weight, though the study did concede that further research is needed on this topic.
The study was carried out by international research group Cochrane on behalf of the World Health Organisation, as the WHO prepares to provide guidance on non-sugar substitutes (NSSs) for health experts and policymakers.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the study saw a team of European researchers analyse 56 studies to assess the impact of NSSs such as aspartame and stevia on measures such as weight, glycaemic control, cardiovascular disease and more.
The study found that there seemed to be “no statistically or clinically relevant differences between those exposed to non-sugar sweeteners and those not exposed, or between different doses of non-sugar sweeteners.”
However, researchers stressed that the quality of evidence in many of the studies was low, so confidence in the results is limited. They also confirmed that longer-term studies are needed to clarify whether non-sugar sweeteners are a safe and effective alternative to sugar.
Vasanti Malik, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said the use of non-sugar sweeteners: “Could be a helpful strategy to reduce cardiometabolic risk (chances of having diabetes, heart disease or stroke) among heavy consumers, with the ultimate goal of switching to water or other healthy drinks.
“Policies and recommendations will need updating regularly, as more evidence emerges to ensure that the best available data is used to inform the important public health debate on sugar and its alternatives.”
The director general of the British Soft Drinks Association Gavin Partington, responded to the study by stating: “Low- and no-calorie sweeteners allow consumers to enjoy sweetness while managing sugars and calories in their everyday lives.
“Because they taste good and are low- or calorie-free, people are more likely to combine them with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle and stick to their dietary goals for weight management.
“In March 2017, the UK Government and Public Health England publicly endorsed the use of low-calorie sweeteners as a safe alternative to reduce sugar in food and drink and help people manage their weight.
“The increased use of low-calorie sweeteners in soft drinks has led to a significant reduction in sugar and calorie intake (from soft drinks). Kantar Worldpanel data shows overall sugar intake from soft drinks is down by 22.9% since 2014.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019
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