BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Rising obesity in Southeast Asia, one consequence of economic growth, has been linked to a rising consumption of energy from added sugars. This symposium, organized by ILSI Southeast Asia, explored regional issues related to dietary sugars and health and identified ways in which these issues could be addressed by regional regulatory agencies, food producers, and the consumer.
METHODS AND STUDY DESIGN: Papers on the following topics were presented: 1) current scientific evidence on the effects of sugars and non-caloric sweeteners on body weight, health, and eating behaviors; 2) innovations by food producers to reduce sugar consumption in the region; 3) regional dietary surveillance of sugar consumption and suggestions for consumer guidance. A panel discussion explored effective approaches to promote healthy eating in the region.
RESULTS: Excessive consumption of energy in the form of added sugars can have adverse consequences on diet quality, lipid profiles, and health. There is a need for better surveillance of total and added sugars intakes in selected Southeast Asian countries. Among feasible alternatives to corn sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup) and cane sugar are indigenous sweeteners with low glycemic index (e.g., coconut sap sugar). Their health benefits should be examined and regional sugar consumption tracked in detail. Product reformulation to develop palatable lower calorie alternatives that are accepted by consumers continues to be a challenge for industry and regulatory agencies.
CONCLUSIONS: Public-private collaborations to develop healthy products and effective communication strategies can facilitate consumer acceptance and adoption of healthier foods.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.