In its assessment, ANSES said there was currently no conclusive evidence for the beneficial effects of intense sweetener consumption on the incidence of type 2 diabetes, blood sugar management for diabetics, sweetness perception or weight management.
“This sugar intake reduction is to be achieved by the overall reduction in the sweet taste of food, and from an early age. As such, ANSES recommends that beverages with sweeteners and sugar are not a substitute for water consumption.”
It said sweetener consumption had increased sharply over the last 20 years perhaps due to concerns around obesity, but there had yet to be an overall assessment of the possible risks and nutritional benefits of such products in Europe.
It also concluded that accusations of associated risks like the development of cancer, type 2 diabetes and preterm birth were also currently unsubstantiated.
It said further research on both the possible pros and cons was warranted.
It said the replacement of sugar with intense sweeteners caused in most cases a lower short-term energy intake through lower calorie intake. However, current data failed to document what the long-term effect of that might be and whether this effect was maintained.
On weight control, ANSES said studies in adults and children had reported conflicting results – while some even saw a paradoxical association with weight gain, although the reason behind had not been established.
There was no evidence for the benefit of regular consumption of sweeteners as a sugar replacement on glycaemic control for diabetics, and this had not been proven to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Key gaps in research
ANSES said more research was needed on consumption among children and what this might mean for the development of taste, food preferences and intake control. The impact for other specific populations like pregnant women and diabetics has also been under-reported, and in particular the risks for these groups should be investigated.
For the general population research should focus on weight management, it said.
In France, the most common intensive sweeteners were aspartame, acesulfame K and sucralose.
The full opinion in French can be found here. An English version of the opinion is due to be available by the end of this week.