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A workshop on ‘Dietary sweetness—Is it an issue?’

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This report summarises a workshop convened by ILSI Europe on 3rd and 4th April 2017 to discuss the issue of dietary sweetness. The objectives were to understand the roles of sweetness in the diet; establish whether exposure to sweetness affects diet quality and energy intake; and consider whether sweetness per se affects health. Although there may be evidence for tracking of intake of some sweet components of the diet through childhood, evidence for tracking of whole diet sweetness, or through other stages of maturity are lacking. The evidence to date does not support adverse effects of sweetness on diet quality or energy intake, except where sweet food choices increase intake of free sugars. There is some evidence for improvements in diet quality and reduced energy intake where sweetness without calories replaces sweetness with calories. There is a need to understand the physiological and metabolic relevance of sweet taste receptors on the tongue, in the gut and elsewhere in the body, as well as possible differentiation in the effects of sustained consumption of individual sweeteners. Despite a plethora of studies, there is no consistent evidence for an association of sweetness sensitivity/preference with obesity or type 2 diabetes. A multifaceted integrated approach, characterising nutritive and sensory aspects of the whole diet or dietary patterns, may be more valuable in providing contextual insight. The outcomes of the workshop could be used as a scientific basis to inform the expert community and create more useful dialogue among health care professionals.

Author information


  1. School of Human Sciences, London Metropolitan University, UK

    • A Wittekind
  2. Department of Food Science, Purdue University, USA

    • K Higgins
  3. Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK

    • L McGale
    •  & J C G Halford
  4. Centre des Sciences du Goût et de l'Alimentation, AgroSup Dijon, CNRS, INRA, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, FR

    • C Schwartz
    •  & S Nicklaus
  5. Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Gastroenterology, School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, University of Manchester, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, UK

    • N S Stamataki
    •  & J McLaughlin
  6. Monell Chemical Senses Center, USA

    • G K Beauchamp
  7. Cargill, USA

    • A Bonnema
  8. ILSI Europe, BE

    • P Dussort
    •  & C F M Marsaux
  9. Sig-Nurture Ltd, UK

    • S Gibson
  10. Division of Human Nutrition, University of Wageningen, NL

    • C de Graaf
  11. Department of Nutrition Science, Purdue University, USA

    • R D Mattes
  12. Unilever R&D Vlaardingen, NL

    • D J Mela
  13. School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, UK

    • P J Rogers
  14. School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham, UK

    • I A Macdonald


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to C F M Marsaux.

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