International experts develop a consensus on sweeteners as a substitute for sugar

International experts in food, nutrition, dietetics, endocrinology, physical activity, paediatrics, nursing and public health have met in Lisbon to develop a consensus on low or non-calorie sweeteners used as substitutes for sugar and other high calorie sweeteners

Yesterday and today, a total of 67 experts have analysed the role of these sweeteners in food safety, their regulation and the nutritional and dietary aspects of their use in foods and beverages.

This event was organised by the Spanish Foundation for Nutritional Research (FIN) with the collaboration of the Lusófona University of Lisbon and with the support of 42 organisations and foundations specialised in nutrition and dietetics, medical societies, universities and research centres in Europe and Latin America.

The goal of FIN, according to the organizers, is to review and communicate the aspects relating to the safety and benefits of low or non-calorie sweeteners as sugar substitutes.

FIN aims to contribute with this consensus to the reduction of the consumption of added sugars in food and beverages, in the context of the prevention and treatment of obesity and related diseases.

Low or non-calorie sweeteners are used in a variety of products by the food and beverage industry, such as in ice cream, milk shakes, fruit and vegetable-based drinks, juices, yoghurt, soft drinks, cookies, chewing gum, candy, and even in pharmaceutical products.

The Chairman of FIN, Lluís Serra-Majem, professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Director of the Research Institute of Biomedical and Health Research of the University of Las Palmas, is one of the directors of the meeting and contributor to the consensus.

Sweeteners have been safely used by consumers all over the world for more than a century; they do constitute an element of undoubted and topical interest, for which, however, there is a certain lack of knowledge in some sectors of the population and in some academic fields,” he said.

The co-director of the meeting, Nutritionst at Coimbra Children’s Hospital, Sergio Cunha Velho de Sousa, stated that: “Low or non-calorie sweeteners offer people with diabetes alternatives to enjoy sweet tastes without increasing glucose in the blood.

The majority of studies that investigate the role of these sweeteners” – added this nutritionist- “have shown that replacing food and beverages for versions with less calories, or none at all, can lead to a reduction of overall energy intake and play a significant role in weight control“.

France Bellisle, senior researcher at the Nutritional Epidemiology Unit of the University of Paris 13, highlighted that “these sweeteners are used to maintain the sweet taste of foods and beverages without adding the caloric load of sugar“.

Obtaining authorisation for a new low or non-calorie sweetener is a long and scientifically rigorous process, the note by FIN said, adding: “The applicants can only ask for the approval of a low or non-calorie sweetener after having subjected it to stringent tests and providing evidence on the safety and utility of the product“.