Individuals who have replaced sugar with sweeteners are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, latest research suggests.

New guidance from the World Health Organization says that people should not consume non-sugar sweeteners, such as aspartame, to lose weight as they have been linked to some health problems.

Found in Diet Coke, aspartame is not associated with any long-term benefits in reducing body fat in adults or children, the study has reported.

According to the research study, sugar alternatives are also linked to obesity, strokes and heart attacks.

Experts are now urging individuals to consume more food and drink products with natural sugars, such as fruit.

Francesco Branca, Director for Nutrition and Food Safety at the World Health Organization, said: “Replacing free sugars with non-sugar sweeteners 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.”

She added: “Non-sugar sweeteners are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value. People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health.”

Prior studies have found that sweeteners impact an individual’s blood sugar control and hunger levels, increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes.

In addition, previous research shows that sugar alternatives can also impact the balance of gut bacteria.

The World Health Organization’s latest advice recommends that people should have a low intake of no calorie synthetic sweeteners and natural extracts, such as aspartame, neotame, cyclamates, acesulfame K, sucralose, stevia derivatives, saccharin, stevia and advantame.

Dietitian Dr Duane Mellor said: “They may still have a place as a transitional or stepping stone to help people reduce sugar intake.

“This report highlights that universal replacement of sugar with sweeteners is not necessarily ideal, as this alone is unlikely to improve diet quality and produce the necessary changes to control weight long term.”

He added: “It is probably best not to stick with sugars to avoid sweeteners though – the answer is to try and reduce sugar intake.

“For some that might include using small amounts of sweeteners in foods and drinks as a way to reduce overall sugar intake.”

Dr Ian Johnson, nutrition researcher at the Quadram Institute in Norwich, noted: “A better alternative to the use of artificial sweeteners is to reduce consumption of manufactured products containing free sugars, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, to use raw or lightly processed fruit as a source of sweetness, and perhaps, in the longer term, to try to reduce one’s overall taste for sweetness.”

Bob Peterson, chairman of the International Sweeteners Association, said: “Food and beverage companies have reformulated products as part of a comprehensive, global effort to meet public health recommendations for sugar reduction.

“Low or no calorie sweeteners have enabled this innovation and ultimately contribute to the creation of healthier food environments by allowing people to enjoy food and drinks with less sugar and fewer calories, while still meeting their taste preferences.”

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