Weight Management Foods & The Claims Companies Can Make…

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The weight loss industry was estimated to be worth in the region of $2.8billion in 2013, with several nutrition companies fighting it out to gain the largest share in this lucrative market. However, until recently these companies have struggled to get certain products into market because of unsubstantiated and relatively unproven health claims. Companies have been limited to what they can say for several years, examples include the claim ‘this controls blood sugar levels’, as this was deemed a little too broad, whilst the claim ‘contributes to weight loss’ was also tightly regulated… don’t get me wrong though, this is great!

The concern with companies making such bold claims is that the consumer is enticed into paying for overpriced goods that do little more to support weight loss than its regular food equivalent. Food and drink governing bodies such as the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the European Commission (EC) (to name a few) are key to regulating the messages we as consumers receive.

 

Changes to reported health claims

The claims that companies can make i.e. potential health and wellness benefits, change from time to time based on research and the subsequent evidence base behind a product and/ or certain ingredient. Generic claims that companies may want to make include ‘this product controls glycaemic response’, ‘supports weight loss’ and ‘improves your health’, but such claims are too bold to make a reasonable assertion in the food, drink and supplement industry without the European Commission’s consent… and they did not consent. However there have been some changes of late, some very interesting changes indeed. Companies may (provided the ingredients are appropriate) claim that a foodstuff is able to ‘contribute to weight loss’ as part of a calorie controlled diet, provided it contains a form of dietary fibre known as glucomannan. Naturex, a botanicals supplier have released their first product that fits the new ‘Generic claim’ guidelines in the form of Slimming Noodles. Glucomannan is a form of fibre that once mixed with water, expands in the stomach to physically occupy space, as well as increasing the satiating hormones such as CCK and Leptin. There are several studies that support the use of Glucomannan in weight control, consequently the European Commission have allowed the product to state that it can ‘contribute to weight loss’.

Another example of this is Naturex’s Gluco- Control ‘Mug Cake’ as they call it. This is an apple and cinnamon flavoured muffin that is presented in a mug (don’t ask us why), and is formulated with a specific ingredient that means the product can be described as ‘able to reduce post- prandial glycaemic response’. The key ingredient here is oat beta- glucans which deliver a slow release of glucose into the blood helping to reduce the blood sugar response after eating.

 

Final thoughts…

The addition of this ingredient does improve the products composition from a regular muffin (for example), however it is prudent to remember its limitations. A Glucammanon filled noodle or an oat beta- glucan fortified muffin is not the key to weight loss or glycaemic control, but combined with a healthy, structured and balanced diet could legitimately contribute to these areas. So it is interesting and positive that the European Commission have allowed these claims, but it is important that the governing bodies don’t get too lenient, giving companies freedom to make assertions can soon turn into clever manipulation and interpretation of the criteria. Be aware of companies that take advantage of this by adding small amounts of Glucammanon just so that they can boldly state ‘this product supports weight loss’ all over the products label!

Reference

Pharma Business International, (2014). Approved claims open the door to weight management success. Retrieved 11th December, 2014, from http://www.pbiforum.net/en/pbi/legislation/909/Approved-claims-open-the-door-to-weight-management-success.htm

 

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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