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European Obesity Day 2016

Meal replacements have key role to play in obesity battle – and need support from EU policy makers

By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn+

20-May-2016
Last updated on 27-May-2016 at 10:19 GMT2016-05-27T10:19:23Z

Tomorrow (21 May) marks to the sixth European Obesity Day. © iStock.com / VladimirFLoyd
Tomorrow (21 May) marks to the sixth European Obesity Day. © iStock.com / VladimirFLoyd

Ahead of this year’s European Obesity Day, the trade groups Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) and European Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) Industry Group have called for greater support for regulated 'total meal replacements' to stop overweight and obese consumers turning instead to more appealing ‘fad diets’.

Tomorrow (21 May) marks to the sixth European Obesity Day since the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) began the campaign platform in 2010.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) calculates that 23% of women and 20% of men in Europe are currently obese and predicts that more than 50% of the European population will have obesity by 2030.

Commenting on the occasion, the trade groups highlighted the value of slimming total meal replacements products for overweight and obese consumers as means of curbing this dangerous trajectory.

Yet they stressed the need for “balanced and appropriate legislation at EU level” to prevent consumers turning away from these regulated foods to “fad diets”.

Beyond appropriate calorie and nutrient profiles, these products also needed to be “sufficiently ‘tasty’"

Yet ongoing EU discussions on the composition of these regulated products could impose formulation profiles that mean nutritionally inappropriate but more appealing diets gain ground.

Good profile – bad taste

Last year the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a report on the ideal composition of low calorie diet replacements for weight loss, which was requested by the European Commission to help inform its decision on how to best regulate such products in the EU.

EFSA concluded the niche diets should contain a minimum of 600 calories, 75 g of protein and 30 g of carbohydrates per day.

Yet the Palma-based authority also specified levels for micronutrients, such as at least 550 mg per day of choline.

However SNE has warned in the past this little ingredient could pose big formulation problems for manufacturers in terms of taste and shelf life.

“Choline has a really fishy taste and we were afraid that consumers would move away from this kind of product because of the bad taste,” SNE executive director Aurélie Perrichet told us at the time.

Today the two groups emphasised consumer expectations on taste and price must be considered alongside EFSA’s guidance, “to avoid consumers turning to other unhealthy, unregulated and possibly harmful diets”.

“Diets that promise quick weight loss through what is often an unhealthy and unbalanced diet, so-called ‘fad diets’, can be dangerous as they are often not nutritionally balanced,” the groups said in a joint statement.

“Foods specifically intended for weight control play a critical role in this process, helping people to lose weight and take back control of their weight, often with support from healthcare professionals.

“These ‘slimming foods’ are specifically formulated to ensure consumers who wish to control calorie intake still receive the vital nutrients they require in order to maintain a healthy nutritional balance.”

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