12th FENS European Nutrition Conference

Organised once every four years, the 12th FENS European Nutrition Conference is being held this year in Berlin, from 20th to 23rd October. On this occasion, the ISA is delighted to be part of the programme, hosting a symposium on a very topical subject: “Sweetness: the science behind sweet taste preference, effect on appetite, weight management and quality of diet”. This insightful session, chaired by Prof Dr Fred Brouns (Maastricht University, Netherlands), took place on Tuesday 20th October, at 16.30 and was led by renowned experts in the fields of psychology, nutrition and behavioural sciences!

  • Dr France Bellisle, from the Université Paris 13, France, who addressed the appetite for sweetness and energy intake, with a focus on sugars and low calorie sweeteners in the consumer’s diet;
  • Prof Peter Rogers, from the University of Bristol, UK, who looked at the effects of low calorie sweeteners consumption on appetite and weight control;
  • Sigrid Gibson, from Sig-Nurture Ltd. Guildford, UK, who presented data from a new analysis of UK data comparing food and nutrient intakes in adults who consumed different types of soft drinks, including low calorie-sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Find out more about the speakers below. If you missed the symposium, read more from what was said during the session by reading the story here.

To read the ISA press release on this symposium, please click here

Prof Dr Fred Brouns

Chair “Health Food Innovation”, Maastricht University, Netherlands

Prof Dr. Fred Brouns studied sports and training sciences (Amsterdam and Brussels), followed by biomedical sciences at Maastricht University in the Nertherlands. He obtained a PhD at Maastricht University in Human Exercise Physiology, with a specialisation in Exercise and nutrition Physiology. Prof Brouns has headed R&D functions at Wander dietetics-NL, Sandoz Nutrition-CH, Novartis Nutrition-CH, Eridania Behin Say-BE, Cerestar-BE, Cargill Inc-USA and has been awarded research prizes including Dutch sports Medicine award for Tour de France studies, two Cargill innovation Awards, and Health Ingredients Europe (HIE) golden award for Isomaltulose studies. Prof Brouns also acted as chair at IDACE Paris, ILSI Europe and Dutch Academy Nutritional Sciences; he obtained fellowships of the American College of Sports Medicine, European College of Sports Sciences, ICC Cereal Sciences Academy, and was voted member of: Nutrition Society UK and Dutch Academy of Nutritional Sciences (NAV). Prof Brouns is currently full time professor “Health Food Innovation” at Maastricht University. His research focus is on carbohydrates, sugars, fibers, whole grain, digestion, absorption, gut function- related to chronic disease Obesity, Diabetes, CVD.

Dr France Bellisle

Epidémiologie Nutritionnelle, University of Paris 13, France

After obtaining degrees in experimental psychology in Canadian and French universities, France has devoted her career to original research in the field of human ingestive behaviours. Her research interests include all types of determinants of food and fluid intake in human consumers, including psychological, sensory and metabolic factors as well as environmental influences. In particular, she has investigated the psycho-biological mechanisms of body weight control and the early life factors affecting obesity in children. France has published over 250 articles (original data and reviews) in international peer-reviewed journals and contributed to several books.


The Human Appetite for Sweetness from early life to adulthood, food choices and weight management Sweetness is a potent psychobiological stimulus for many animal species, including human consumers of all ages. Human newborns display an innate attraction to sweet substances, manifested by eager acceptance and a stereotyped gusto-facial reflex of relaxation and smile. Similar responses have been reported in human fetuses at the end of gestation, when taste receptors in the mouth become functional. As it does in other species, the appetite for sweetness spontaneously decreases during growth and human adults vary largely in their preferred intensity of sweetness in a broad range of beverages and foods [1]. The potent attraction of human consumers to sweet tasting substances is a strong determinant of food preferences and consumption [2]. It has been suggested that it may stimulate overeating and play a decisive role in weight gain over the long term. Indeed, since sugars bring 4 kcal per gram, the consumption of sugar-containing foods and beverages can contribute to an excessive energy intake that will induce weight gain. In order to allow consumers to enjoy the palatable sweet taste of many favorite foods and drinks without the energy load of sugar, various intense, low-energy sweetening agents have been developed. These substances have different chemo-physical structures but share a very high sweetening power compared to sugars, so that they are used in minute amounts to confer the desired level of sweetness to foods and drinks, while contributing very little or no energy at all to the final product. It has been suggested, however, that these products may enhance the natural appetite for sweetness and paradoxically stimulate the consumption of other sweet products. The present review will address the scientific literature exploring appetite effects of low-energy sweeteners. In particular, studies published in recent years showing how the use of low-energy sweeteners affects consumers’ appetite for all sweet tasting products will be presented. The conditions allowing a beneficial use of low-energy sweeteners in terms of body weight control, as revealed by the scientific literature over the past 30 years, will be discussed.

Further Reading

  • Article by Dr Bellisle on Intense Sweeteners, Appetite for the Sweet Taste, and Relationship to Weight Management, published in Current Obesity Reports – accessible by clicking here.
  • Unedited manuscript of the review by Prof Rogers on Does low-energy sweetener consumption affect energy intake and body weight? A systematic review, including meta-analyses, of the evidence from human and animal studies, published in International Journal of Obesity – accessible by clicking here.

Prof Peter Rogers

School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, UK

Professor Peter Rogers trained in biological sciences and experimental psychology at the University of Sussex UK (1972-1976). He completed his PhD and postdoctoral work at the University of Leeds UK, moving to the Institute of Food Research, Reading UK in 1990. In his present position at the University of Bristol UK (1999-) Peter teaches biological psychology and does research on nutrition and behaviour, including work on human appetite and weight control, food choice, dietary effects on mood and cognitive function, and the psychopharmacology of caffeine. He is a Chartered Psychologist, a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and a Registered Nutritionist.


Effects of low-energy sweeteners consumption on appetite and weight control

The extent to which low-energy sweeteners (LES) consumption might benefit weight management depends on their effects on appetite control. By reducing dietary energy density, LES consumed in place of sugars ought to reduce total energy intake provided that the ‘saving’ in energy consumed is not fully compensated for by increased energy intake elsewhere in the diet. Short-term ‘preload test-meal’ studies in humans confirm less than full compensation for sugar consumed in foods and beverages. It is possible, however, that other effects of LES consumption might outweigh this saving. It has been suggested that LES consumption may increase energy intake, for example, by increasing desire for sweet food consumption, and by confusing the relationship between sweetness and food energy content. Overall, though, the evidence favours a net benefit of LES consumption. Two sets of findings, in particular, are important. First, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) show consistently a relative reduction in body weight for consumption of LES- versus sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Outcomes were similar for trials in which the products (LES beverages or SSBs) were added to the diet and trials in which LES beverages replaced equivalent SSBs in frequent consumers of SSBs. Second, in preload test-meal studies LES do not acutely increase energy intake compared with water, and in RCTs LES beverages reduce body weight compared with water. The various results summarised above are based on a recent systematic review and meta-analyses (Rogers, Hogenkamp, de Graaf, Higgs, Lluch, Ness, Penfold, Perry, Putz, Yeomans & Mela, International Journal of Obesity, in press), from which we concluded that ‘We found a considerable weight of evidence in favour of consumption of LES in place of sugar as helpful in reducing relative energy intake and bodyweight, with no evidence from the many acute and sustained intervention studies in humans that LES increase energy intake.’

Further reading:

  • Unedited manuscript of the review by Prof Rogers on Does low-energy sweetener consumption affect energy intake and body weight? A systematic review, including meta-analyses, of the evidence from human and animal studies, published in International Journal of Obesity – accessible by clicking here.

Sigrid Gibson

Sig-Nurture Ltd. Guildford, UK

Sigrid Gibson is a Registered Nutritionist. After graduating from Cambridge University (Natural Sciences) she spent a year in Kenya with the MRC/Tropical Institute of the Netherlands conducting field studies in anthropometry and iron status before returning to study at the University of London (Human Nutrition). She joined the scientific civil service (Ministry of Food, working on dietary surveys, followed by posts at the Milk Marketing Board, and Leatherhead Food Research. For the past 20 years she has run her own consultancy, Sig-Nurture Ltd, which provides research and consultancy services in the area of nutrition and health. Clients include many of the major food and drink manufacturers as well as not-for-profit organisations, government departments and universities. Sigrid has published over 70 peer-reviewed research papers including systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Much of her work involves further analysis of UK data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey or Health survey for England. Her special interests include dietary patterns and obesity, micronutrient intakes and status, and simple methods for screening for central obesity and its attendant health risks.

The Federation of European Nutrition Societies (FENS) is a non-profit Federation consisting of 26 European Nutrition societies, each representing one country. To learn more about FENS, please visit their website by clicking here. The main FENS event is the European Nutrition Conference, arranged every 4 years. The forthcoming 12th Conference will be held in Berlin in 2015, from 20th to 23rd October. Put under the slogan ‘Nutrition and health throughout life-cycle – Science for the European consumer’, this conference will aim to communicate up to date information obtained with scientific rigor and encouragement that could help the European citizens and consumers to manage a successful life and maintain healthy in all age periods. For more information about this upcoming event, please visit the conference dedicated website by clicking here.