press release
Published: 03 January 2019

European project to identify and address barriers to sweetener use

A new study, led by researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and Copenhagen, has been launched to identify the risks and benefits of sugar replacements in the diet.

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The University of Surrey is leading on two elements of the project, the cross cutting theme “Consumer Perspectives” led by Professor  Monique Raats that will determine the societal context within which sweeteners and sweetness enhancers (S&SEs) are currently being used or have the potential for use; and the “Sustainability modelling” work led Professor Richard Murphy. This work will assess whether increasing the production & use of S&SEs is a sustainable pathway (in terms of environmental, economic & social dimensions) to promoting healthy diets, combatting obesity & improving food security in the EU.

SWEET, a European Commission Horizon 2020 funded project, is supported by a consortium of 29 pan-European research, consumer and industry partners, who will develop and review evidence on long term benefits and potential risks involved in switching over to S&SEs in the context of public health and safety, obesity, and sustainability.

The 5 year multidisciplinary project engages stakeholders from across the food chain — consumers, patients, health professionals, scientists, policy makers, and regulators — to address the role of sweeteners in weight control, and potentially move viable products to market. Stakeholders, including consumers, patients, health professionals, scientists, policy makers, and regulators will engage in the project.

As part of the five year multidisciplinary project, a two-year randomised controlled trial, involving recruitment of 660 adults and children with overweight or obesity from four European countries (Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands and Spain), will be conducted.

Trial participants will undertake a two-month weight loss diet. During this period, they will be randomised to one of two treatment types. Both groups will receive dietary advice on existing recommendation to reduce consumption of added sugars by 10%. However, one group will be allowed to consume food and drink with sweeteners, whereas the other group will not.

Jo Harrold, Project co-ordinator from the University of Liverpool’s Department of Psychological Sciences, said: “Obesity has emerged as a major health issue across Europe and around the world.

“An investigation of the effects of sugar replacements on appetite and food choice on this scale has never been undertaken. Our study will adopt a multidisciplinary approach to examining the impact of prolonged sugar replacement on weight control, appetite and energy intake.

“Understanding the effectiveness of alternative sweeteners will help shape best practice in the future when it comes to weight management.”

For more information about the SWEET study please visit sweetproject.eu