Statement from ISA on publication of World Health Organization (WHO) guideline on low/no calorie sweeteners
Brussels, 15th July 2022: The International Sweeteners Association (ISA) today responded to the publication of the WHO’s draft guideline on the use of non-sugar sweeteners1.
The ISA points to an overwhelming body of scientific evidence which shows that low/no calorie sweeteners:
- Are safe and amongst the most thoroughly researched ingredients in the world2;
- Can help adults and children reduce their calorie intake and be a useful tool to help manage their body weight, when used instead of sugar, and as part of a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle3-7;
- Offer people with diabetes an important alternative to sugar as they do not affect blood sugar levels8,9;
- Do not contribute to tooth decay and their use instead of sugar actually “contributes to the maintenance of tooth mineralisation”8;
- Are an essential tool in helping food and drink companies reformulate their products10,11, to reduce the amount of sugar and calories they contain.
Commenting on the WHO’s publication, Robert Peterson, Chairman of ISA, said: “Low/no calorie sweeteners are no magic bullet. However, they mean people can enjoy food and drinks that have less sugar, fewer calories while still meeting their taste preferences. The benefit of replacing added sugars with low/no calorie sweeteners in reducing calorie intake and aiding in weight management is supported by evidence reviewed by WHO7, the US Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-202512, and numerous published systematic reviews and meta-analyses.3-5 Failing to recognise the role of low/no calorie sweeteners in sugar and energy reduction, and ultimately in weight management is a disservice to public health.”
Mr Peterson continued: “Governments around the world are trying to tackle the serious problem of rising rates of obesity and diabetes. Not to mention dental diseases which are the most prevalent non-communicable diseases (NCDs) globally and one of the public health objectives of sugar reduction as set by WHO in their 2015 guideline on sugars intake for adults and children. It is a pity that the well-established benefit of non-sugar sweeteners use in dental health has not been recognised.
While this guideline does not apply to people living with diabetes, it could mislead those who need to manage their carbohydrate and sugars intake. Health organisations globally recognise that low/no calorie sweeteners can be safely used to replace sugar in the nutritional management of diabetes.
To address the challenge of NCDs, governments have urged food and drink companies to reduce the amount of sugar in their products in support of public health recommendations by WHO and other bodies.Low/no calorie sweeteners have allowed these companies to do that. They have been able to reformulate their products using low/no calorie sweeteners, which contain no, or virtually no calories.
At the same time, low/no calorie sweeteners are amongst the most thoroughly researched ingredients in the world, and have been approved for use by food safety authorities globally. Furthermore, research shows that our intake of them is well below the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for both children and adults.13-20
We look forward to providing feedback on this draft guideline and to continuing to support efforts to improve the understanding of the benefits of low/no calorie sweeteners” Mr Peterson added.
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