New World Health Organisation(WHO) guidelines to reduce free sugars includes a conditional recommendation that non-sugar sweeteners not be used for achieving weight control or reducing the risk of NCDs. The full report has received significant media attention and some eye raising headlines; controversy has emerged around the guidance and media reaction.
WHO guidance – the facts and just the facts
In this blog health care professional and science writer Ted Kyle of ConscienHealth discusses the importance of accuracy, and criticizes the WHO for sharing misleading information about alternate sweeteners. The author clarifies that the systematic review on which WHO’s guidance is based does not support the claim of “deadly consequences” associated with non-sugar sweeteners, as reported in the WHO news brief.
The actual guidance states that non-sugar sweeteners should not be relied upon for weight control or reducing the risk of noncommunicable diseases, and that “People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health.” Kyle highlights potential negative consequences of sensationalising this information, as has been the case in some media, as it may lead to increased sugar consumption if people believe the misleading claims. Read the full blog, which includes reference to uncritical reporting about the advice in the guideline from the WHO, and points to this balanced report, in Q&A format, in the Washington Post: