Nav: Home

No compelling evidence for health benefits of non-sugar sweeteners

January 02, 2019

There is no compelling evidence to indicate important health benefits of non-sugar sweeteners, and potential harms cannot be ruled out, suggests a review of published studies in The BMJ today.

Growing concerns about health and quality of life have encouraged many people to adopt healthier lifestyles and avoid foods rich in sugars, salt, or fat. Foods and drinks containing non-sugar sweeteners rather than regular ("free") sugars have therefore become increasingly popular.

Although several non-sugar sweeteners are approved for use, less is known about their potential benefits and harms within acceptable daily intakes beacuse the evidence is often limited and conflicting.

To better understand these potential benefits and harms, a team of European researchers analysed 56 studies comparing no intake or lower intake of non-sugar sweeteners with higher intake in healthy adults and children.

Measures included weight, blood sugar (glycaemic) control, oral health, cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, mood and behaviour. Studies were assessed for bias and certainty of evidence.

Overall, the results show that, for most outcomes, 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.

For example, in adults, findings from a few small studies suggested small improvements in body mass index and fasting blood glucose levels with non-sugar sweeteners, but the certainty of this evidence was low.

Lower intakes of non-sugar sweeteners were associated with slightly less weight gain (-0.09 kg) than higher intakes, but again the certainty of this evidence was low.

In children, a smaller increase in body mass index score was seen with non-sugar sweeteners compared with sugar, but intake of non-sugar sweeteners made no differences to body weight.

And no good evidence of any effect of non-sugar sweeteners was found for overweight or obese adults or children actively trying to lose weight.

The researchers point out that this is the most comprehensive review on this topic to date, and will inform a World Health Organization guideline for health experts and policy makers.

However, they stress that the quality of evidence in many of the studies was low, so confidence in the results is limited. And they say longer term studies are needed to clarify whether non-sugar sweeteners are a safe and effective alternative to sugar.

In a linked editorial, Vasanti Malik at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health agrees that more studies are needed to understand the potential health effects of non-sugar sweeteners and to guide policy development.

Based on existing evidence, she says use of non-sugar sweeteners as a replacement for free sugars, particularly in sugar sweetened drinks, "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," she concludes.
-end-


BMJ

Related Health Articles:

Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
Generous health insurance plans encourage overtreatment, but may not improve health
Offering comprehensive health insurance plans with low deductibles and co-pay in exchange for higher annual premiums seems like a good value for the risk averse, and a profitable product for insurance companies.
The Lancet Planetary Health: Food, climate, greenhouse gas emissions and health
Increasing temperatures, water scarcity, availability of agricultural land, biodiversity loss and climate change threaten to reverse health gains seen over the last century.
With health insurance at risk, community health centers face cut-backs
Repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, combined with a failure to renew critical funding streams, would result in catastrophic funding losses for community health centers-forcing these safety net providers to cut back on services, lay off staff or shut down clinical sites, according to a report published today.
Study clusters health behavior groups to broaden public health interventions
A new study led by a University of Kansas researcher has used national health statistics and identified how to cluster seven health behavior groups based on smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits and flu vaccination are associated with mortality.
Tailored preventive oral health intervention improves dental health among elderly
A tailored preventive oral health intervention significantly improved the cleanliness of teeth and dentures among elderly home care clients.
Study finds that people are attracted to outward signs of health, not actual health
Findings published in the journal Behavioral Ecology reveal that skin with yellow and red pigments is perceived as more attractive in Caucasian males, but this skin coloring does not necessarily signal actual good health.
In the January Health Affairs: Brazil's primary health care expansion
The January issue of Health Affairs includes a study that explores a much-discussed issue in global health: the role of governance in improving health, which is widely recognized as necessary but is difficult to tie to actual outcomes.
University of Rochester and West Health Collaborate on d.health Summit 2017
In collaboration with West Health, the University of Rochester is hosting the third annual d.health Summit, a forum for health care and technology leaders, entrepreneurs, senior care advocates and policymakers to exchange ideas, create new partnerships, and foster disruptive technological and process innovations to improve the lives of the nation's aging population.
Study links health literacy to higher levels of health insurance coverage
The federal Affordable Care Act is intended to make it easier for individuals to buy health insurance, but are the uninsured equipped to navigate the choices faced in the insurance marketplace?

Related Health Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#517 Life in Plastic, Not Fantastic
Our modern lives run on plastic. It's in the computers and phones we use. It's in our clothing, it wraps our food. It surrounds us every day, and when we throw it out, it's devastating for the environment. This week we air a live show we recorded at the 2019 Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C., where Bethany Brookshire sat down with three plastics researchers - Christina Simkanin, Chelsea Rochman, and Jennifer Provencher - and a live audience to discuss plastics in our oceans. Where they are, where they are going, and what they carry with them. Related links:...