ATLANTA, March 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- It has been called one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century, with the numbers of those affected continuing to rise at an alarming rate. Once considered a problem only in high-income countries, obesity is now taking a toll on populations across the globe, including those in developing nations.
According to the World Health Organization, more people in the world now die from being overweight and obese than being underweight. Statistics show there are about 1.6 billion overweight or obese people in the world and at least 2.5 million deaths are associated with these conditions annually. In addition to the negative health consequences related to obesity, such as a greater risk of heart disease, hypertension and certain cancers, there is also a significant economic cost. Obesity accounts for two to seven percent of total health care costs in several countries. Research recently conducted by Columbia University and the City College of New York revealed that the health burden of obesity in the U.S. has now overtaken that of smoking.
With an estimated one-third of European and U.S. children and adolescents overweight or obese, health experts across the globe are calling for increased education and coordinated action to remedy the rising levels. Weight loss, experts say, is best achieved by reducing caloric intake, lowering energy density of the diet and increasing physical activity. And while they are not magic bullets, low-calorie sweeteners (also known as intense or high intensity sweeteners) in beverages and foods can also help people struggling with excess weight.
Several studies conducted in humans have shown that low-calorie sweeteners and the products that contain them can be useful tools in weight control. A 2007 study published in Pediatrics found that eliminating 100 calories a day from the diet through the use of sucralose (SPLENDA® brand) as well as adding 2,000 steps of physical activity daily, helped maintain and lower body mass index for children participating in the "Families on the Move" program. Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Food Science found that people who use reduced-calorie products not only had a better quality diet but also were more likely to consume fewer calories.
"Making small changes can have big results," said Beth Hubrich, a registered dietitian and executive director of the Calorie Control Council, an international association representing the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry. "By reducing portions, controlling calories and adding more activity, people can lose weight without feeling deprived. Low-calorie sweeteners such as sucralose can easily be made part of a lifelong, sensible weight-control program."