Overweight consumers looking for added satisfaction not deprivation

Related tags Glycaemic index Nutrition

The rising success of low-GI foods may be down to their promise of
longer lasting satisfaction compared with the deprivation
associated with low-calorie or reduced fat foods, reports
Dominique Patton.

The glycaemic index, which ranks foods based on the speed at which the sugars are broken down and released into the body, is emerging as the basis for a healthy diet, and as a means of losing weight, particularly among UK consumers.

Their growing interest could reflect a shift in attitudes towards weight management, which favours increasing satisfaction rather than cutting out foods or certain ingredients, says Linda Gilbert, president of HealthFocus International.

"Consumers are moving away from the deprivation model and becoming more interested in stabilizing blood sugar levels and controlling cravings than counting calories,"​ she told NutraIngredients.com.

The most recent HealthFocus surveys of shopping habits around the world confirm other studies showing very low awareness of the glycaemic index. But some products are successfully communicating the benefits of low-GI foods without having to refer to the term.

"The Primaliv yoghurt [marketed in Sweden] uses images to demonstrate energy levels going up and down. Consumers don't know GI but they can related to an energy high and energy low,"​ explained Gilbert.

The HealthFocus research has found that in almost every country surveyed, only half the overweight consumers questioned admit to their weight problem. And for those that do, eating less and exercising more is not a solution, says Gilbert.

"US consumers tell us that a diet is a recipe for failure - as soon as you go off it, you will start putting the weight back on. Many are actually waiting for medical solutions,"​ she said.

"But food companies need to start talking about lifestyle and satisfaction, using transparent changes or small, gradual changes that fit into existing behaviour."

Although one in five European shoppers have increased their use of low-fat or low-calorie foods in the last two years, according to HealthFocus, particularly in northern Europe where 28 per cent are increasingly buying low-fat foods, Gilbert predicts that Europe's wariness of overly processed foods will stem a proliferation of low-fat foods on the marketplace.

"There is more acceptance of functional type products, whether they incorporate CLA or resistant starch for example,"​ she said.

This attitude is even more important when it comes to children, increasingly overweight yet often not recognised as such by parents.

"Even if a mother is concerned about a child's weight, growth and development is still a greater concern. Mothers tend to perceive reduced calorie products as being inappropriate for children and prefer to teach them to follow a balanced diet,"​ explained Gilbert.

In Europe, the number of overweight children is rising by a hefty 400,000 a year, according to data from the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF).

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