Effects of product reformulation on sugar intake and health-a systematic review and meta-analysis

Nutr Rev. 2019 Mar 1;77(3):181-196. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuy015.


Context: Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dental caries are all major public health problems in the United Kingdom and contribute substantially to healthcare costs.

Objective: A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to determine the effect of product reformulation measures on sugar intake and health outcomes.

Data sources: Using a combination of terms, the following databases were searched-The Cochrane Library, EMBASE, MEDLINE (Ovid), and Scopus. Additionally, multiple gray literature searches were undertaken.

Data extraction: A total of 16 studies met the inclusion criteria. There were 4 randomized controlled trials, 6 studies that modeled reformulation in a country, 5 studies that modeled a different approach of reformulation, and 1 study was both a modelling study of a different approach to reformulation and a retrospective observational study. The studies were assessed for risk of bias and overall quality of evidence was rated using the Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development and Evaluation Working Group (GRADE) framework.

Results: Results from randomized controlled trials suggest that consumption of reformulated products can reduce sugar intake and body weight. The pooled estimates were -11.18% (95% confidence interval [CI], -19.95 to -2.41; P < 0.00001) for changes in percentage of sugar intake, -91.00 g/day (95%CI, -148.72 to -33.28; P< 0.00001) for changes in sugar intake in grams per day, and -1.04 kg (95%CI, -2.16 to -0.08; P= 0.0002) for changes in body weight. However, the quality of the evidence was very low. Results from the other studies suggested that reformulation can reduce sugar intake and improve health. Much of the evidence draws on modeling studies.

Conclusions: This systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that product reformulation to reduce sugar content could reduce sugar intake in individuals and thus improve population health. These findings provide an important starting point for ongoing work on sugar reformulation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight
  • Dental Caries / epidemiology
  • Dental Caries / etiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology*
  • Diet, Carbohydrate Loading / adverse effects*
  • Diet, Western
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Public Health
  • Sugars / adverse effects*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Sugars