Weight management – Keeping the kilos off (Part 1): Science and opportunities

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13 Nov 2017 --- With obesity being of growing international concern, keeping weight under control is always a hot topic in the nutrition industry. Various approaches to help consumers stay at a healthy weight by removing ingredients and using reformulation are constantly being proposed.

The challenge of weight management is a daunting one, even when compared to weight loss. “Only a modest fraction of people who lose weight keep it off for the long term,” notes Dr. Steven Heymsfield of Pennington Biomedical Research Center, a leading expert in weight management, metabolism and body composition. “There are multiple reasons for this effect. One reason is that it’s hard for us to remove ourselves from the obesogenic environment that created this epidemic we are now in. That includes too much food, too little activity and a host of social influences.”

The human body may even have a preferred starting weight, Heymsfield adds: “There is the increasing realization that there are biological mechanisms that keep people close to a ‘set point.’ We are increasingly finding these subtle effects that gradually move people back to their starting weight.”

Nutrition campaigners have therefore highlighted what companies can do to help. “When it comes to both weight loss and weight management, the overall nutritional quality of the diet must be considered,” says Jenny Rosborough, Nutritionist and Campaign Manager at Action on Sugar. “When reformulating, companies are encouraged to remove the least nutritious components such as sugar and saturated fat. Companies can also support a reduction in excess calorie intake by reducing the portion size of their product.”

Opportunities for weight management products
The market opportunities are – from a potential point of consumer needs – sadly growing, observes Karin Nielsen, Vice President of ID Nutra SL: “Obesity and overweight comprise approximately 40 percent of adult consumers in most developed markets and there’s a significant growth in childhood obesity too.”

As consumers look for longer-lasting satiety as an aid to weight management, high protein and high fiber products continue to grow in popularity, according to Daniel Eder, Product Development & Application, WILD Flavors & Specialty Ingredients, ADM.

“In recent years, formulation technologies have advanced in this area, whereby there has been a shift from the inclusion of short-chain to long-chain carbohydrates (e.g. from sugars to fibers), together with increased protein content,” Eder says. “Higher protein and fiber products can leave consumers feeling fuller for longer, while still supplying the body with sufficient energy. These developments present numerous opportunities for the category.”

DuPont Nutrition & Health currently sees an opportunity to overlap with the sports nutrition category. “We have proprietary research indicating that the weight management category has shifted over time, to blend more with sports nutrition,” says Megan De Stefano, Global Probiotics Marketing Leader, DuPont Nutrition & Health. “As the lines between weight management and sports nutrition blur, and consumers become more educated on methods to stay well, I think the most successful products and ingredients will be the ones that cross over into both categories.”

Sugar reduction is also a significant trend, and NutritionInsight discussed it in an interview with Fred Brouns, Emeritus Professor of Innovation Healthy Nutrition, Biomedical Researcher and Nutrition Physician at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.

The trend presents an opportunity for the industry. “We believe that there has probably not been a better time for manufacturers to provide products including foods and beverages with low-calorie sweeteners that can be useful tools in nutritional strategies to help reduce overweight,” says a spokesperson for the International Sweeteners Association (ISA).

“There are many opportunities for nutritional product innovation, probably the most important of which is finding ways to create foods and beverages that are satisfying from a taste perspective but with fewer calories,” says the ISA spokesperson. “Current research supports that calorie reductions can be achieved in foods traditionally made with sugar, without a significant impact on taste, by using low-calorie sweeteners instead – how much sugar substitution to make, however, is very product dependent.”

“Many individuals find that using table-top sweeteners in place of sugar in their tea or coffee and/or choosing a zero- or low-calorie beverage sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners are desirable substitutes for their full-sugar counterparts,” the ISA spokesperson notes. “For others, a lower-sugar substitution that still results in significant calorie savings may be the key to their tastebuds, and a healthier calorie intake.”

“As sugar is put under the spotlight, the negative impact of high-glycemic ingredients on weight management is becoming ever clearer, and many more consumers are making the link between high-glycemic diets and weight gain,” says Anke Sentko, Vice President Regulatory Affairs and Nutrition Communication, Beneo. “As a result, there has been a significant increase in interest from manufacturers around sugar replacement with low-glycemic carbohydrates.”

However, Rosborough from Action on Sugar sounds a note of caution on this score: “Some companies are reformulating their products to include less sugar and are replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners. There is insufficient evidence to determine what impact this will have on weight in the long term, however these sugar substitutes are deemed ‘safe’ and provide one solution to removing sugar (and calories) – particularly in drinks.”

“Companies should be encouraged not to match the current level of sweetness when replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners to gradually accustom taste preferences to something less sweet over time,” Rosborough adds.

Be sure to come back on Wednesday for the second part of NutritionInsight’s special report on weight management.

By Paul Creasy

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