“Light” products: commercial smoking for zero nutritional benefit

Based on the analysis of millions of purchases, American researchers conclude that the purchase of foodstuffs reduced in fat, calories, sugar or salt does not help the consumer to eat healthier.

This study reviews more than 80 million purchases made by 40,000 households in the United States. They find that 13% of food and 35% of beverages purchased carry a claim for being low in energy, fat, sugar or sodium. The allegation “low in fat” being the most frequent across the Atlantic. But if indeed these foods have a lower density in energy, sugar, fat and sodium, they are not always the best nutritional choice. This is because advanced reduction is on a similar product, not on a clear definition of what “low in…” means. Thus, low-fat crisps are not low in fat.

No better nutritional profile

These results demonstrate that for all foods and beverages, purchases bearing “low in…” claims do not necessarily offer a better nutritional profile, or even a better profile for the nutrient concerned by the claim, compared to other choices without claims. And this is probably due to the fact that “low in” or “reduced in” claims are made within specific brands or categories of food.

Situation a little different in France but not in substance

Note, however, that the situation is not quite the same in Europe as in the United States. Indeed, if a biscuit with the claim “low in sugar” means, in the United States, that it contains less sugar than a traditional biscuit, in the European Union, “low in sugar” implies a maximum sugar content of 5% for a solid, and 2.5% for a drink. In the case of sugar, the study does not say what is replaced by industrial sugar… by a synthetic sweetener whose health and weight benefits are clearly negative.

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Taillie LS et al., No Fat, No Sugar, No Salt. . . No problem? Prevalence of “Low-Content” Nutrient Claims and Their Associations with the Nutritional Profile of Food and Beverage Purchases in the United States J Am Ac Nutr Diet., March 15, 2017.


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