The Sugar Reduction Summit; Sugar, Sweetness and Obesity

With almost two thirds of adults in the UK now classified as overweight or obese, there is no doubt that obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of our time and that, continued unchecked, it will bankrupt public health services. Current spending on diabetes and excess weight costs more than £5billion each year, and is predicted to rise to £45 billion by 2050.

Sugar’s role in obesity is increasingly taking centre-stage in the media, with headline grabbing stories not only on its link to obesity but correlations to cancers, cardio-vascular disease, heart disease and diabetes. Scientists and public health professionals have decried the high levels of hidden sugar found in everyday foods from breads to sauces, and drawn parallels between the tobacco and food industries, invoking the rising tide of obesity and questioning whether sugar taxation and additional regulation is an inevitable necessity.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the World Health Organisation both issued draft recommendations last year to halve the daily recommended amount of free sugars in our diet, to better protect against both dental caries and obesity.  Some manufacturers and retailers are beginning to introduce initiatives to reduce sugar in their products including reformulating soft drinks and reducing portion size.

One strategy to reduce calories whilst maintaining palatability is to replace sugars with sweeteners, but the science and health communities are divided on whether sugar substitutes represent a powerful harm-reduction strategy or whether maintaining sweetness promotes a preference for less healthy attitudes and foods and contributes to over consumption and obesity.

The Summit will examine the science and evidence around the impact of sweetness on appetite control and energy balance and explore the neuroscience of sweet taste, debating to what extent sweetness actually matters if calorie reduction is achieved.  Evidence on the safety, efficacy and acceptability of sweeteners will also be considered.  Do sweeteners offer a viable harm reduction strategy in the fight against obesity?   Is there consensus on the efficacy of sweeteners in weight management?  If international evidence from health bodies overwhelmingly concludes that sweeteners are safe, why are they not supported more widely with strategies to promote their safety and increase acceptability?

The Sugar Reduction Summit: Managing Sweetness is the only event to provide a neutral and balanced platform for policy makers and key stakeholders within the nutrition health and wellbeing, scientific and food industries to come together and explore evidence-based research on the impact of sweetness in our diets and debate the importance of managing sweetness in sugar reduction.  The Summit will bring together the latest science and evidence, taste and sensory studies, innovations in food technology and consumer purchasing trends to fully explore the role of sweetness in our diets.

Key topics will include:

  • Does sweetness matter, if calories are managed?
  • Is reducing sweetness a moral issue rather than a health issue?
  • What does the data reveal on the impact of anti-sugar campaigning on attitudes and purchasing?
  • Do sweeteners offer a viable harm reduction strategy in the fight against obesity?
  • Do sweeteners have unintended consequences?
  • Does the use of sweeteners facilitate a reduction in sugar intake or do consumers compensate?
  • What is the extent of reformulation over the past 25 years?
  • Should industry have a specific sugar reduction strategy alongside calorie reduction?
  • How do you sell reformulated foods?
  • If sweeteners are safe, why are they not more widely supported?
  • What’s next for Public Health and Policy on sugar reduction?