First PhD in Edulia on sugar reduction in dairy products targeted at children

Last week, Ana Laura Velázquez defended her PhD as the first ESR in the Edulia consortium. The defense was digital and took place October 14th. The title of her thesis is “Strategies to reduce the sugar content of dairy products targeted at children” and was granted by Universidad de la República (Uruguay).

We congratulate Ana on her excellent work, and wish her the best for her future carrier. She will now take a short term position at Universidad de la República (Uruguay).

Short summary of thesis:

Children’s sugar intake has raised concern worldwide as it exceeds nutritional recommendations. Although sugars are naturally present in food, sugars added to foods during industrial processing are currently the main source of sugar in children’s diets. In particular, dairy products, which are generally recommended as part of a healthy diet, have drawn attention due to their high content of sugar. In this context, the main objective of this thesis was to explore different sugar reduction strategies in dairy products targeted at children. Results showed that sugar reduction of dairy products targeted at children available in the Uruguayan marketplace is possible. A direct sugar reduction up to 25% did not have a significant impact on children’s hedonic perception in three dairy products. Meanwhile the use of taste-odor-texture cross-modal interactions allowed to minimize the impact of sugar reduction on the sensory characteristics of dairy desserts. Co-creation with children was identified as a feasible approach to develop innovative healthy dairy products with high acceptance among children. Finally, package information influenced parent’s healthiness perception and choice of snacks for their children, stressing that packaging regulations should play a key role as part of the comprehensive set of strategies that should be implemented to reduce children’s sugar intake. Overall, results from this work provide useful insights to food scientists for the development of sugar-reduced products targeted at children, as well as valuable information for policy makers to design programs to reduce children’s sugar intake at population level.

Supervisors: Gastón Ares (Udelar), Leticia Varela (Udelar), Paula Varela (Nofima)

Institution: Universidad de la República (Uruguay), Uruguay

Placement and duration of secondments: Nofima (Norway, 7 months), Instituto Nacional de Alimentación (Uruguay, 2 months)

Committee: Laura Fariña (Udelar, Uruguay), Sofía Barrios (Udelar, Uruguay), Héctor Escalona (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico)

Date and place of defence: Digital/Montevideo, October 14th, 2021

Papers included in the thesis

Velázquez, A.L., L. Vidal, P. Varela, and G. Ares, (2020) Can children use temporal sensory methods to describe visual and food stimuli? Food Quality and Preference,  86: p. 104002.

Velázquez, A.L., L. Vidal, P. Varela, and G. Ares (2020), Cross-modal interactions as a strategy for sugar reduction in products targeted at children: Case study with vanilla milk desserts. Food Research International, 130: p. 108920.

Velázquez, A. L., Vidal, L., Alcaire, F., Varela, P., & Ares, G. (2021). Significant sugar-reduction in dairy products targeted at children is possible without affecting hedonic perception. International Dairy Journal, 114, 104937.

Velázquez, Ana Laura, Vidal, Leticia, Varela, Paula, & Ares, Gastón. (2021). Sugar reduction in products targeted at children: Why are we not there yet?. Journal of Sensory Studies, e12666.

Velázquez, Ana Laura, Galler, Martina, Vidal, Leticia, Varela, Paula, & Ares, Gastón. (2021). Co-creation of a healthy dairy product with and for children. Food Quality and Preferece, 96(104414).

Velázquez Mendoza, Ana Laura, Alcaire, Florencia, Vidal, Leticia, Varela, Paula, Næs, Tormod, & Ares, Gastón. (2021). The influence of label information on the snacks parents choose for their children: Individual differences in a choice based conjoint test. Food Quality and Preferece, 94(104296).



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