Sweetener formulations to combat obesity?

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soft drink, Sugar substitute, Coca-cola, Obesity

Suggesting continuing growth for booming sweeteners market,
researchers once again claim soft drinks provide a generous slice
of sugar to a child's diet.

The market for sweeteners is pitched to grow at about 8.3 per cent year on year until 2008, far out-pacing industry growth currently around 3 to 4 per cent.

Growth is based on rising health concerns in society, that see consumers turn towards sugar free products, and food makers introduce zero-calorie or low-calorie sugar substitutes into their new product formulations.

Last month, for example, soft drink giants PepsiCo and Coco Cola both launched new diet versions of their flagship fizzy drinks, using the popular low cal sweetener Splenda.

Tracking the diets of over 3000 children and teenagers, researchers at the University of Vermont, University of British Columbia, and Environ Health Sciences Institute say that no other single food provided more calories to a teenager's diet than carbonated soft and fruit drinks.

According to their findings, presented last week at the Experimental Biology 2005 scientific conference in the US, these types of drinks provided about 13 per cent of a teenager's total calories - more than cakes and biscuits.

Soft carbonated beverages and fruit drinks were also the leading source of added sugar in a teen's diet, providing more than half of all added sugars they consume, claim the researchers.

Concerns about obesity are based on mounting evidence that the phenomenon is becoming an epidemic. Fresh figures released in March by the International Obesity Task Force (IOFT) show in excess of 200 million adults across the EU may be overweight or obese.

With the number of European kids overweight rising by a hefty 400,000 a year.

Part of a newly formed battle plan from the European Commission to slash obesity, new voluntary labelling initiatives, a tighter advertising code and increased investment in innovation could be on the way for food manufacturers.

Earlier this month the Commission, along with a dozen stakeholders, launched a new platform to curtail the rising numbers of obesity in Europe.

Europe's €700 billion food and beverage industry will participate in the platform that brings industry, consumer groups, health experts and political leaders together to discuss voluntary actions.

For the moment, self-regulatory notions will guide discussions. Food industry fears that the Commission might eventually draw up legislation proposals for food, particularly on labelling and advertising, may not be realised, at least not for now.

In terms of market value, children's products contribute about €14-15 billion to the overall €700 billion food and drink market in Europe.

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