Sweet answer to the obesity crisis

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Low calorie sweeteners, Nutrition

By 2030 8% of adults in Europe will have diabetes, experts predict
By 2030 8% of adults in Europe will have diabetes, experts predict
Stigma surrounding low calorie sweeteners (LCSs) must be stamped out if the obesity and diabetes epidemic in Europe is to be tackled, leading nutritionists have said.

There was now enough scientific evidence to show the positive impact LCSs would have on the nation’s health, said Professor Colette Shortt, chair of the International Sweeteners Association (ISA) after a conference called ‘Why low calories count’, organised by the ISA in Brussels last month.

“The statistics for obesity and diabetes in Europe are shocking,”​ said Shortt. “We’re talking about obesity doubling since 2008, and by 2030 8% of adults in Europe will have diabetes.”

Junk science

It was time to stop focusing on the negative “junk science”​ stigmatising LCSs, she added and drew on the recent European Food Safety Authority conclusion at the end of last year, which confirmed aspartame at current recommended levels posed no threat to consumers.

“There are about 10 different LCSs approved for use in the EU at the moment and we’re very confident in the science behind them. I don’t think there’s been any other ingredient that's had as much scientific consultation as sweeteners,”​ she said.

However, manufacturers and consumers were still plagued by doubt surrounding LCSs, because of campaigns from action groups against their use, as well as media reports.

Leading the way

But, countries such as the US were leading the way, with many manufacturers and consumers using LCSs without worry, Professor Adam Drewnowski for the Centre for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington said.

Research carried out by Drewnowski showed that sweeteners were a proxy for a healthy diet. “Users of low calorie sweeteners also eat a healthier, balanced diet and are more physically active,”​ he said.

Drewnowski’s research, which looked at US consumers, was based on epidemiological studies of 22,231 adults exposed to sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) or LCS-sweetened beverages in the US. Clinical trials showed less weight gain with LCS, as opposed to SSB, he said. “Present data suggests that LCS use was a part of weight management strategy and did not cause obesity or diabetes.”

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