Publications by Virginia Tech researchers could reshape the way we view artificial sweeteners and their impact on our global diet. Valisa Hedrick, an associate professor and registered dietitian nutritionist in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, gained recognition for her publication in the prestigious British Medical Journal.

Hedrick's manuscript, "Non-sugar sweeteners: helpful or harmful? The challenge of developing intake recommendations with the available research," delves into the extensive use of non-sugar sweeteners, also known as artificial sweeteners, as substitutes for added sugars in the global food supply. Her recent publication also highlights the existing ambiguity and disagreement in recommendations concerning their consumption, along with a notable shortage of research designed to provide long-term health effect evidence.

The uncertainty surrounding non-sugar sweeteners is rooted in differing study designs, methodologies, and interpretations of research findings. Hedrick's research emphasizes the urgent need for additional comprehensive studies. As non-sugar sweeteners continue to become more prevalent in global diets, her work highlights the necessity for tailored guidelines that consider individual types of non-sugar sweeteners and target specific populations, such as children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and individuals with diabetes.

Hedrick’s manuscript provides guidelines for planning future studies on non-sugar sweeteners, aiming to advance this underexplored field of research. In addition, Hedrick is actively involved in conducting research to investigate the effects of specific non-sugar sweeteners, with funding from two National Institutes of Health grants totaling $880,000.

The Food for Thought 2023 conference, a collaboration between the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue and British Medical Journal, served as the ideal platform for unveiling Hedrick's manuscript. This global gathering of researchers, which took placed in Zurich, Switzerland, offered a unique opportunity to present their research findings alongside publication in British Medical Journal, a journal renowned for its global impact and is currently ranked the seventh highest impact factor journal in the world.

Hedrick isn't the only Virginia Tech researcher featured in the British Medical Journal. Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, an assistant professor with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC who also holds an appointment in the department of human nutrition, foods, and exercise, is a co-author on an article that call for acknowledging and addressing the addictive potential of ultra-processed foods.

In the field of nutritional research, both Hedrick and DiFeliceantonio are at the forefront of knowledge and innovation. Their significant contributions, prominently featured in the British Medical Journal, solidify Virginia Tech's standing as a center of excellence and expertise, guiding the path of future developments in nutrition, health, and food security.

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