In a commentary in the journal Appetite, Paul Smeets and Laura van der Laan from the University Medical Center Utrecht stated that a public health effort needs to be made to explain to consumers that there is no magic bullet for weight management, but that successful weight control requires permanent changes to eating habits and general lifestyle.
“While specific food products may help people in the process of changing their habits, such products need not be part of what should always be the endpoint: a healthy diet and lifestyle (not e.g. ‘short-term weight loss’),” wrote Smeets and van der Laan.
“ Thus, consumers need to be made aware of the bigger picture of weight control rather than fed with the simplistic and false promise that a special satiety-enhancing food can effectively improve their ‘weight control’.”
“It is surprising that satiety claims are allowed, since they are inherently weak and misleading for consumers,” wrote the Dutch scientists.
“If satiety claims continue to be allowed, it should be obligatory that their limited value is clearly mentioned on food packages and in commercials. One can doubt the effectiveness of this, but at least it is giving consumers a clue about the limited usefulness of such a product for weight control purposes.”
The satiety debate has been rumbling on for several years. Only last year, Unilever’s Dr David Mela said that the food and nutrition industry should rally together to defend the validity of satiety as a health benefit.
Speaking at a nutrition forum day organized by UK-based Leatherhead Food Research in 2010, Dr Mela said: “We should be very assertive within the food industry in our support of counter-arguments to this. Academic institutions and funding bodies around the world – including the European Commission – clearly view satiety as a health benefit, and we need to make sure that is recognized.”
With the World Health Organization estimating that by 2015, there will be more than 1.5 billion overweight consumers, incurring health costs beyond $117 billion per year in the US alone, the opportunities for a scientifically-substantiated weight management food product are impressive.
The market for food, beverage and supplement weight management products is already valued at $3.64bn (2009 figures) in the US, according to Euromonitor. In Western Europe, the market was worth $1.3bn in 2009.
One of the biggest areas is satiety – or boosting the feeling of fullness. Many ingredients work via the same mechanism, which involves boosting levels of appetite-related hormones like satiety hormone glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), peptide YY (PYY), and cholecystokinin (CCK).
Branded ingredients like Kemin’s Slendesta potato extract, Lipid Nutrition’s PinnoThin derived from the seeds of the Korean pine nut tree (Pinus koraiensis), and DSM’s Fabuless (formerly Olibra) made from palm and oat oil, are already solid performers in this market.
In their new commentary, Smeets and van der Laan explained that: “The abundance of ‘weight control’ products is quite striking, especially given the fact that the issue with the control of food intake is that many people lack control.
“Quite ironically, the consumers at which weight control products are targeted are the ones that are unsuccessful in controlling their weight.
“Weight control products appear to keep the myth of successful weight control alive rather than promoting actual sustained weight control, i.e., satiety claims give consumers an illusion of being in control,” they added.
The US view
At last year’s SupplySide West Expo in Las Vegas, Tom Vierhile from Datamonitor told attendees that the big growth area for supplements regarding claims is for calorie or fat burning. In 2007, calorie/fat burning was experiencing 1 percent growth, while in 2010 this had increased to 3 per cent, he said.
Satiety continues to receive a lot of attention from consumers, said Vierhile, however such interest does not necessarily translate into product sales, he said. Indeed, according to a recent survey of global consumers by Datamonitor, “consumers talk around satiety, and not about it”.
“Hunger control will potentially resonate more effectively with consumers than satiety,” he advised.
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1016/ j.appet.2010.12.026
“Satiety – Not the problem, nor a solution”
Authors: Paul A.M. Smeets, Laura N. van der Laan