Confusion about sweeteners

A recent research poll conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) and YouGov found that British consumers are confused about low kilojoule sweeteners. The report shows that consumers are unsure about how low kilojoule sweeteners are used, whether they are beneficial for weight loss and whether they are safe.

Local registered dietician Leigh-Ann Silber comments on the report: "The research shows that some consumers have questions about low kilojoule sweeteners and their role in the diet, it also indicates that nutritionists/dieticians and other health advisers are considered to be the most reliable source of information on food. Yet there is real confusion as consumers battle to get accurate information to dispel some of the myths."

Can low kilojoule sweeteners help weight control?

"The use of low kilojoule sweeteners helps reduce the kilojoule content of many foods and drinks," says Silber. "The BNF survey shows that 38% of adults polled believed that eating foods or drinks containing low kilojoule sweeteners could help them lose weight as part of a kilojoule-controlled diet. Yet consumers are confused about safety of low kilojoule sweeteners." 

When asked about safety, 23% of all surveyed respondents said they need more information before deciding if low kilojoule sweeteners are safe or not and 31% think that safety depends on the amount of sweetener you consume.

Rigorous safety testing

According to a press release from the BNF, Professor Andrew Renwick from the University of Southampton said: "Many people do not realise that all approved low kilojoule sweeteners have to undergo rigorous safety testing before they can be added to foods or beverages. Large safety factors are used to determine the safe intake for humans of each sweetener; the levels permitted in foods ensure that intakes are well below these safety levels."

The survey also found that despite the uncertainty about the safety and usefulness of low kilojoule sweeteners, the majority of respondents reported consuming low kilojoule sweeteners, or products containing them regularly.

Silber comments that the survey shows there was a lot of variation in the responses given about the use and safety of low kilojoule sweeteners, yet when people were asked whether they consume foods and drinks such as diet soft drinks, sugar-free chewing gum or low kilojoule yogurts, that typically contain low kilojoule sweeteners, 82% of the population reported having these regularly.

"The report highlights that consumers need more information about the way safety measures are put in place to protect their health when it comes to low kilojoule sweeteners, most consumers did not realise that sweeteners and other food additives underwent rigorous safety testing in order to gain regulatory approval."

 - (Fore Good Group press release, Health24, July 2010)

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