WHO Recommends Avoiding Stevia and Other Sweeteners

The World Health Organisation issues a guideline on non-sweetened sweeteners to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases - find out more!
WHO Recommends Avoiding Stevia and Other Sweeteners
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 31 May, 2023

Do you use sweeteners to reduce calories in your diet and lose weight? If so, we have important news for you. Through a systematic review, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised against the use of sweeteners as a way to lose weight, as they confer no long-term benefit in reducing body fat. Why else should we avoid stevia and other sweeteners?

The results also suggest that there may be unwanted effects, such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Read on for new recommendations!

World Health Organization raises new guidance on stevia and other sweeteners

In 2015, the World Health Organization issued a statement calling for adults and children to reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. Since then, the search for healthier alternatives has increased.

One such option is stevia and other sugar-free sweeteners. But do they really help?

The guide called Use of non-sugar sweeteners: WHO guideline compiles the results of trials in adults, children, and pregnant women. However, it doesn’t apply to patients with pre-existing diabetes.

In order to issue guidance on sweeteners that are marketed alone or found in foods and beverages, a total of 283 studies were included, as well as randomized controlled trials and observational studies.

The review on the use of non-sugar sweeteners has generated significant debate around the potential risks of their consumption. Although some might see this as an alternative to reduce sugar intake and control weight, the World Health Organization concluded that sweeteners have a low impact on body weight and adipose tissue.

On the other hand, it also indicated that their use may be associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and long-term adult mortality.

The new guidance aims to reach policymakers, managers, non-governmental organizations, health professionals, scientists, researchers, educators, and the food industry. Although sugar-free sweeteners may seem like an attractive alternative for weight loss, the results of the systematic review suggest otherwise.

These are the sweeteners that could have unwanted effects on health

The entity in question highlights not only the lack of nutritional value of sugar substitutes, but also the importance of reducing the amount of sweets in our diet to improve health, especially from an early age. The guidance issued emphasizes the need to avoid the most common non-nutritive sweeteners, such as the following:

It’s important to mention that toothpastes, skin creams, medicines, and sugar alcohols haven’t been included in the WHO publication.

Reducing sweetener consumption is possible

After knowing the risks associated with prolonged use of non-sugar sweeteners, it’s important to mention that there are several options to reduce their use. Read on to discover them!

  • Gradually reduce sugar consumption: To help your palate get used to less sweet tastes, you can start by limiting sugar consumption in beverages and foods little by little.
  • Use fruits as natural substitutes: Fruits can be an excellent natural substitute for sugar in desserts, drinks, and other foods. They contain fructose, which is a type of natural sugar.
  • Read food labels: Many processed products contain hidden sweeteners. For this reason, it’s so important to read labels to identify ingredients.
  • Replace sodas with water: Carbonated beverages often contain a large amount of sugar, so replacing them with water can significantly reduce sweetener consumption.

The World Health Organization aims to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases worldwide and improve dietary quality. As part of this effort, it plans to publish a series of recommendations on healthy diets.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.