The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised against using sugar substitutes for weight loss. The WHO conducted a review of existing evidence and found that non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) do not offer long-term benefits for reducing body fat. While there may be a slight reduction in body weight in the short term, it is not lasting. The guidance applies to everyone except those with preexisting diabetes. The review also suggests potential harmful effects from long-term use of sugar substitutes, such as a slightly increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The WHO emphasizes that man-made sweeteners are not an effective strategy for weight loss or reducing dietary energy intake.

Non-sugar sweeteners are widely used in prepackaged foods and beverages and are sometimes added directly by consumers. The WHO’s guidance is based on a thorough assessment of the scientific literature and aims to inform policy changes by government health organizations. The recommendation encourages reducing sugar-sweetened drinks and using raw or lightly processed fruit for sweetness instead. The International Sweeteners Association expressed disappointment with the WHO’s conclusions, stating that they are based on low-certainty evidence from observational studies. However, the WHO emphasizes the importance of long-term studies to demonstrate the impact of sweeteners on body weight. The recommendation covers both low- or no-calorie synthetic sweeteners and natural extracts, including stevia and monkfruit.