A new BMJ review has found that there is “no compelling evidence” to indicate important health benefits of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS). Furthermore, it found potential harms of NSS cannot be ruled out.
Researchers analysed data from 56 studies to assess the association between intake of NSS and a number of health outcomes in generally healthy or overweight/obese adults and children. Measures included body weight or body mass index (BMI), glycaemic control, oral health, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease.
The authors found that for most outcomes, there seemed to be no statistically or clinically relevant difference between NSS intake versus no intake, or between different doses of NSS. However, they say the certainty of the included evidence ranged from very low to moderate.
Findings from a few small studies suggested a small beneficial impact of NSS on BMI and fasting blood glucose in adults. In children, a smaller increase in BMI index score was seen with NSS compared with sugar, but intake of non-sugar sweeteners made no differences to body weight.
The authors said longer-term studies are needed to clarify whether NSS are a safe and effective alternative to sugar.