If You Use Sweetener In Your Coffee, We've Got News For You

It's not great news, unfortunately.
Grace Cary via Getty Images

If you use sweeteners in your hot drinks with a view to losing weight, we’ve got some bad news to share.

According to a new guideline released this week by the World Health Organisation (WHO), non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) are not only ineffective at aiding weight loss, but they could also be putting people at increased risk of various health issues including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and increased risk of an early death.

Francesco Branca, WHO Director for Nutrition and Food Safety, said: “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.”

This recommendation applies to all people except those with pre-existing diabetes. Some of the sweeteners highlighted in the guideline include aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, and stevia.

The recommendation doesn’t apply to personal care and hygiene products containing NSS, such as toothpaste, skin cream, and medications, WHO said. Nor does it apply to low-calorie sugars and sugar alcohols (polyols).

Seek out natural, healthy alternatives instead

Of course, this may be frustrating news to people who previously thought artificial sweeteners were a healthier alternative to sugar – but there are solutions available to keep the sweetness in your favourite foods and drinks.

For hot drinks lovers, the NHS recommends gradually cutting down sugar consumption over time and trying alternative herbal teas or even making your own with a slice of lemon and ginger in hot water.

According to BBC Good Food, there are plenty of natural sources of sweetness for cooking and baking including:

  • Whole fruits - fresh, frozen, dried and pureed are all suitable substitutes,
  • Fruit syrups,
  • Vegetables including carrots, parsnips, beetroot, sweet potato and even courgettes,
  • Coconut sugar.

Jack Scott, co-owner of DASH Water – which only uses natural ingredients in its drinks – said of the new WHO guidance: ”The use of sweeteners as an alternative to sugar has intensified in recent years and up until now, the jury has been out as to whether it is a healthier option.

“The release of the WHO’s latest guidelines which warn against the use of artificial sweeteners is a stark reminder of the need to seek out natural and healthy alternatives which don’t pose a risk to our health.”