Sugar replacements won’t help you lose weight: WHO

If you’re trying to maintain or lose weight, you may want to avoid those non-sugar sweeteners (NSS).

New guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest not only are they not good for you but they can have serious side effects like an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 Diabetes and even death among adults.

“Replacing free sugars with NSS does not help with weight control in the long term. People need to consider other ways to reduce free sugars intake, such as consuming food with naturally occurring sugars, like fruit, or unsweetened food and beverages,” said Francesco Branca, WHO Director for Nutrition and Food Safety.

“NSS are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value. People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health.”

Common NSS, the WHO recommends should be avoided, include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia, and stevia derivatives. Additionally, they’re often found in manufactured foods and drinks or sold on their own to be added to meals by consumers.

The only exception to the WHO’s findings is for people who already have diabetes.

“The recommendation does not apply to personal care and hygiene products containing NSS, such as toothpaste, skin cream, and medications, or to low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols (polyols), which are sugars or sugar derivatives containing calories and are therefore not considered NSS,” it said.

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Ali Chernoff, a Vancouver-based dietician, says it’s time to go back to the basics.

“Now we’re sort of shifting our thoughts and saying, ‘Maybe we should go back to using old-school refined sugar,’ but just recognizing there are four grams of sugar in a teaspoon, so that’s nine calories,” Chernoff told CityNews. “It’s like when we educate diabetics, we’re not saying, ‘Eliminate candies’ or whatever you’re having, just realize the carb count, so you incorporate into your meal plan — not to replace it.”

Chernoff says she’s never recommended sweeteners for weight loss and says in addition to the side effects listed above, there’s another one to be mindful of.

“Gut health, in terms of the research, has really changed in the last five years. We have now learned that sweeteners change the gut health so, that more contributes to not losing weight because if our gut health is off, we cannot lose weight.”

She says you don’t have to eliminate sweeteners entirely or refined sugars but stresses moderation is key.

“It’s kind of like, you have 500 plants in your gut, and they all need a different feed. So, if you’re missing something, let’s say, grain products, then several of those plants are going to die. It’s going to be a domino effect and then all the plants are going to start to die, so then your gut health is off.”

Chernoff says if you’re looking to cut back on your sugar and potentially sweeteners, she suggests using fruits like mashed bananas, apple sauce, and puréed pears in dishes.

“You got to be realistic with yourself. If you can make some changes or incorporate even half and half in your baking… that’s OK, but at least you’re still doing it in moderation,” she explained.,

She recommends always reading not just the labels on packages, but the actual ingredient list when you shop.

“Even something like a cereal box, it might say, ‘Whole grains,’ so you think, ‘Oh my God, that sounds super healthy,’ and then you read the ingredient list and there are no whole grains in there, it’s white flour.”

Diabetes Canada says with all new recommendations or research, it’s keeping an eye on things.

“Artificial sweeteners are regulated as food additives in Canada, and many have been approved for sale and use in various consumable products. Health Canada has set acceptable daily intake values based on body weight that is considered safe daily intake levels over a lifetime. Diabetes Canada recommends people with diabetes who wish to consume artificial sweeteners follow Health Canada guidelines when it comes to the type and amount considered to be safe.

“Diabetes Canada is always monitoring the latest research related to artificial sweetener use and will update recommendations as warranted. People with diabetes are encouraged to follow up with a registered dietitian or other healthcare provider if they have specific questions around their own artificial sweetener consumption,” it says in a statement to CityNews.

Diabetes Canada says it’s estimated Canadians eat 110 grams of sugars per day, or 26 teaspoons, based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.

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