Low calorie sweeteners are fundamental in tackling global health challenges, say leading health experts

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International Sweeteners Association hosts World Health Organisation, academics, behavioural experts and nutritionists at ‘Why Low Calories Count’ Conference in Brussels

Brussels, 2nd April 2014: The role low calorie sweeteners can play in addressing the rising obesity epidemic and increase in type 2 diabetes was discussed today at the 2nd International Sweeteners Association (ISA) conference in Brussels. Educating and empowering people to make informed choices by providing the best scientific evidence available, is key to the ISA’s mission. Today’s conference united a world-class multidisciplinary group of experts including Dr Roberto Bertollini, chief scientist at the World Health Organisation, Professor James Hill and Professor Adam Drewnowski.

Dr Roberto Bertollini, chief scientist at the World Health Organisation opened the conference by highlighting the reality of Europe’s health challenges providing some startling statistics:

“In 46 countries in the European region over 50% of the population is overweight and over 20% of the population is obese. The WHO estimates that 63% of adults are not reaching the minimum recommended levels of physical activity and only 20% of 11 year old girls and 30% of 11 year old boys are reporting that they engage in at least one hour of daily moderately vigorous physical activity.”

Following on from Bertollini’s overview of the scale of the obesity issue Professor Adam Drewnowski, a world-renowned leader in the prevention and treatment of obesity from the University of Washington talked about his new research, emphasising that:

“We have found that low calorie sweeteners are actually a proxy for a healthy diet – users of low calorie sweeteners also eat a healthier, balanced diet and are more physically active. What we also discovered is that the future of health research needs to include targeted geographic and societal insight at a micro level, in order to make it relevant. Local data can show, even down to postcode level, which neighbourhoods are most affected by obesity and diabetes, this gives us much greater insights into the environmental factors beyond what we consume.”

Following this Professor James Hill, US obesity expert and Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, said the secret to better weight management is: “eat smarter and move more. Our research has found that making small changes daily like choosing low calorie food and drinks can make a big difference over time when looking at weight maintenance.”

Professor Colette Shortt, chairwoman of the ISA said: “Today we heard from leading academics about the importance of tackling obesity and diabetes and the way that low calories sweeteners can play a role. We have heard that we are born with an innate preference for sweetness, therefore removing sweetness totally from the diet is not desirable nor pragmatic which is where low calories sweeteners can play a significant role providing sweetness with no or few calories. We are proud to stimulate and support the on-going dialogue between the scientific community, policy makers, healthcare practitioners and industry to ensure we are all utilising the best possible evidence and resources to help tackle these modern health challenges.”

The conference is proceeded by the European Commission’s Summit on non-communicable diseases, highlighting the sense of urgency Europe’s policymakers and like-minded stakeholders are placing on this issue. With this in mind, the ISA will endeavour to engage on key issues related to the health agenda, and promote the benefits of low calorie sweeteners as part of the solution.