A seminar was held at the Coke NZ National Contact Centre led by international obesity expert, Dr. Jim Hill, Ph.D., Professor of Paediatrics and Medicine at the University of Colorado. The second in a series of seminars designed as part of an ongoing commitment to staff to provide an open forum for staff to ask questions and discuss nutrition, sugar and trending media topics industry experts.

The session followed that of a previous presentation held by Registered Nutritionist, Nikki Hart.

Professor Jim Hill was brought to the country by the New Zealand Beverage Council to attend a symposium, Energy Balance: Which is more important – diet or physical activity?, at Massey University in Auckland. Hill was the keynote speaker and lectured on Balancing the energy equation – the ins and outs of weight management.

Hill served as Chair of the first World Health Organisation Consultation on Obesity in 1997, is Past President of the American Society for Nutrition and The Obesity Society and is a former member of the Expert Panel on Obesity of the National Institutes of Health that developed first U.S. guidelines for the treatment and prevention of obesity.

He has dedicated his career to weight management, having published more than 500 scientific articles and book chapters in the area of obesity, many of which focus on the importance of both healthy eating and physical activity in weight management.

The seminar at Coke NZ was attended by team members, senior leaders and industry leaders, including members of the New Zealand Beverage Council. The venue was at capacity with attendance testament to Hill’s impressive repertoire, depth of knowledge and the industry’s commitment to addressing obesity New Zealand.

Hill led an engaged group through the importance of the interaction of diet and physical activity in the prevention and management of obesity, stating that the key to success is about managing energy intake with energy output. He stated even the smallest of changes in diet and physical activity can have an impact on body weight – even by creating a daily energy deficit of just 100 calories for weight maintenance.

Hill notes that, ‘the more active you are, the more fun you can have in your diet’. Adding that ‘we need to empower people with skills to help them match their diet to their level of physical activity’.

Widely discussed of course was, sugar. Hill believes that a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would not necessarily reduce total calorie intake as there is no reason to believe that, even if intake of certain foods or beverages did decline, those former calories from sugar wouldn’t be replaced with something else – perhaps even more calorific.

“Obesity is multi-factorial, it is impossible to reverse obesity by focusing on just one thing, such as sugar, or fat, or physical activity for that matter. Hill also reviewed the research on low and no calorie sweeteners and concluded they are safe for all population groups, even my kids drink diet soda, and that they can very much play a part in weight loss and management.”

“Non-nutritive sweeteners are safe and can be a tool to help in weight loss” says Hill.

The key take-out from the seminar was that we have to first understand how the body regulates energy balance in order to develop more effective strategies to lower global rates of obesity.  The harder part will be developing and scaling solutions to address obesity on a national, and global, level.