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Health advantages and natural ingredients key to promoting sweet protein alternatives over sugar

In a recent study published within the journal Food Research International, researchers explored the role of message framing in promoting the consumption of different sweeteners, specifically sweet proteins, to cut back sugar consumption. Their findings indicate that individuals usually tend to be influenced by messaging highlighting sugar substitutes’ health advantages, though specializing in their lack of artificial ingredients can also be helpful.



Study: Beyond sugar: Exploring the influence of health and naturalness framing on attitudes towards products with sweet proteins in Europe

Background

Estimates suggest that European Union residents eat a median of 34 kg of sugar every year, greater than thrice the quantity really helpful by the World Health Organization. The rise in sugar consumption has a deleterious effect on public health and has been related to rising obesity rates. Strategies reminiscent of taxing sugary foods and beverages, strengthening dietary labeling regulations, and reducing the marketing of those foods to children haven’t had the specified effect of reducing their consumption.

Nevertheless, breakthroughs in precision fermentation have allowed scientists to develop ‘sweet proteins’ reminiscent of thaumatin, which is definitely digestible and non-allergenic. Notably, they’re created using yeast to precise and isolate proteins occurring naturally in some fruit. They’re a promising alternative to artificial sweeteners reminiscent of sucralose and aspartame without the associated health risks.

It’s critical to market the novel sweet proteins in a way that influences consumer attitudes and perceptions and translates to reduced sugar consumption. Previous research has indicated that perceptions of health and naturalness have a task to play and will be moderated by body mass index (BMI) and emotions related to sugar consumption, like anticipatory guilt.

In regards to the study

In the current study, researchers investigated how health and naturalness perceptions influenced attitudes toward products containing sweet proteins. A subsequent study also assessed the aspects that moderate this relationship, reminiscent of BMI and anticipatory guilt for health messaging, previous consumption of different sweeteners, and anticipatory pleasure for naturalness messaging.

The researchers tested these influences experimentally by presenting similar messages that only differed in how they described sweet proteins. The health frame focused on their health advantages as a sugar alternative, while the naturalness frame highlighted their differences from currently available artificial sweeteners. To be eligible for the study, participants needed to be between 20 and 70 years old and either be decision-makers for his or her households or share responsibility for food purchases.

Researchers assessed perceptions of the proteins by asking participants to rate the items on Likert scales where higher values indicated higher agreement with statements related to their advantages. Other questions elicited the degree of accountability, responsibility, and guilt participants feel when consuming sugary foods. Participant BMI was calculated from self-reported information. Sociodemographic characteristics were also included. The info was analyzed using methods reminiscent of evaluation of covariance and regression-based path evaluation, with country of residence as a covariate.

Findings

For the important experiment on the role of product messaging (health vs. naturalness), data were collected from 296 participants in Denmark, of whom 147 received naturalness messages and 149 received health messages. Half of the participants were male, and the typical age was 27 years.

The evaluation indicated a major difference in attitudes towards sweet proteins between the 2 groups. Participants who received the health-related messaging reported a median favorability of 5.07 out of a maximum of seven, as in comparison with 4.34 for individuals who received naturalness messaging. Gender and age didn’t show significant correlations with attitudes to the products.

In the next study, researchers focused on three countries whose residents have shown interest in reducing sugar consumption – Poland, Germany, and Denmark. There have been roughly 1,000 participants from each country, of whom half received messages related to every experimental condition (health and naturalness). They were 45.59 years old on average, and 48% were male.

Much like the important study, participants across all three countries once more reported more positive attitudes when exposed to the health framing. There was a slight but significant negative effect of BMI on health perceptions with a slope of -0.008. Bootstrapping techniques showed this perception was particularly significant for those with medium to high BMI levels. The implication is that health message framing increases health perceptions for those at high BMI levels. Similarly, anticipatory guilt translated to more favorable product attitudes for individuals who received health messages.

Researchers found a touch significant result for the naturalness messaging, indicating that participants who eat more sweeteners may perceive sweet proteins more positively. Additionally they established that anticipatory pleasure moderates the effect of the naturalness messaging, implying that those that already eat sweeteners could also be more receptive to this message because they anticipate the enjoyment of consuming them.

Conclusions

The study generated novel insights into how sweet proteins will be promoted to consumers to cut back sugar consumption and improve health outcomes. Nevertheless, the authors acknowledge that while attitudes are crucial, they might not all the time translate to behavior and consumption. Further study should strengthen these findings through behavioral data.

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