Mary L’Abbé, Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Temerty Faculty of Medicine, CM, PhD, FCNS-SCN

Department of Nutritional Sciences, Temerty Faculty of Medicine
University of Toronto

Dr. L’Abbé is a Professor and former Chair, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, where she leads a research group on Food and Nutrition Policy for Population Health. She is an expert in public health nutrition, nutrition policy, and food and nutrition regulations. In 2018, she was named to the Order of Canada and in 2020 was named one of the inaugural Fellows of the CNS-SCN. Her research examines the nutritional quality of the Canadian food supply, nutrient profiling methods, dietary intake patterns, and consumer research on food choices related to obesity and chronic disease. Professor L’Abbé has authored over 285 peer-reviewed scientific publications, book chapters and government reports. She was co-chair of the Canadian Trans Fat Task Force, Chair/Vice-Chair Canadian Sodium Working Group and is a member of several WHO committees, chairs the PAHO Technical Advisory Group on Sodium and was a member of the US National Academies Panel on Global Harmonization of DRIs. She is the Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Nutrition Policy for NCD Prevention and one of the founding members of INFORMAS (International Network for Food and Obesity/Non-communicable Diseases Research, Monitoring and Action Support).

Measuring the effects of free sugar reduction strategies on non-communicable diseases in Canada

Authoritative bodies recommend limiting intakes of free sugars to <10% of total daily energy intake. The University of Toronto’s Food Label Information Program (FLIP) is a unique Canadian branded food composition database which contains nutritional information including calorie and calculated free sugar levels for food and beverage products. FLIP 2017 data were merged with food intakes of Canadians in the Canadian Community Health Survey-Nutrition 2015. The average intake of free sugars was 12.1% of E, 20% higher than recommended levels. A reformulation or “counterfactual” modelling scenario with a 20% reduction in free sugars levels in prepackaged foods (using actual nutrition information from lower free sugar foods in FLIP), resulted in an overall calorie intake reduction of only 60 calories (3.2%), as most Canadian foods that are lower in free sugars are not much lower in calories. Lastly, to estimate diet-related deaths that could be averted or postponed under this reformulation scenario, we utilized the Preventable Risk Integrated ModEl (PRIME) from the University of Oxford. The model estimated that 6,770 (95% CI 6,184 - 7,333) deaths due to diet related NCDs could be averted or delayed in Canada in 2019, an overall 7.5% decrease in number of deaths from the 13 diet-related NCDs under study (mostly due to CVDs).