From biology to behavior: a cross-disciplinary seminar series surrounding added sugar and low-calorie sweetener consumption

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Obesity Science and Practice








Dietary sugar; low-calorie sweeteners; obesity; sugar-sweetened beverages


© 2019 The Authors. Obesity Science & Practice published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, World Obesity and The Obesity Society. Introduction: This report presents a synopsis of a three-part, cross-sector, seminar series held at the George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, DC from February–April, 2018. The overarching goal of the seminar series was to provide a neutral forum for diverse stakeholders to discuss and critically evaluate approaches to address added sugar intake, with a key focus on the role of low-calorie sweeteners (LCS). Methods: During three seminars, twelve speakers from academic institutions, federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and the food and beverage industries participated in six interactive panel discussions to address: 1) Do Farm Bill Policies Impact Population Sugar Intake? 2) What is the Impact of Sugar-sweetened Beverage (SSB) Taxes on Health and Business? 3) Is Sugar Addictive? 4) Product Reformulation Efforts: Progress, Challenges, and Concerns? 5) Low-calorie Sweeteners: Helpful or Harmful, and 6) Are Novel Sweeteners a Plausible Solution? Discussion of each topic involved brief 15-minute presentations from the speakers, which were followed by a 25-minute panel discussion moderated by GWU faculty members and addressed questions generated by the audience. Sessions were designed to represent opposing views and stimulate meaningful debate. Given the provocative nature of the seminar series, attendee questions were gathered anonymously using Pigeonhole™, an interactive, online, question and answer platform. Results: This report summarizes each presentation and recapitulates key perspectives offered by the speakers and moderators. Conclusions: The seminar series set the foundation for robust cross-sector dialogue necessary to inform meaningful future research, and ultimately, effective policies for lowering added sugar intakes.