Healthy living

'Healthy drinks' sugar warning

 Healthy drinks  sugar warning People unaware of soft drinks sugar content

People underestimate the amount of sugar in soft drinks, particularly those which are perceived to be healthy, according to new research.

A Glasgow University study found that while many people slightly overestimate the amount of sugar in fizzy drinks, they significantly underestimate sugar levels in milkshakes, smoothies, energy drinks and fruit juices.

The researchers asked more than 2,000 people across the UK to estimate how many teaspoons of sugar were in a range of popular drinks.

Pomegranate juice contained nearly 18 more teaspoons of sugar per container than people estimated, while the amount of sugar in sparkling orange glucose drink was around seven and a half teaspoons more than they thought. A chocolate milkshake was estimated to contain six teaspoons of sugar, but actually contained nearly 14.

People taking part in the study were also asked to estimate how many non-alcoholic drinks they consumed in an average week.

The findings suggest that the average person in the UK consumes 659g of sugar a week, and 3,144 calories a week through non-alcoholic drinks.

This is the equivalent of around 450 calories a day, or nearly a quarter of the recommended daily calories for a woman and a fifth for men, the researchers said.

Half of people who admitted to drinking three or more sugary drinks in a day said they did not compensate for this by reducing the calorie intake of their food, while a quarter said they did not take into account the amount of sugar present in drinks when they were on a diet.

The overconsumption of sugar-sweetened drinks can increase the risk of obesity, a major risk factor for health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease and stroke.

Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: "What you drink can be as damaging to the body as what you eat and there is no question that consuming too many sugar-sweetened drinks can greatly contribute to abdominal obesity and therefore increase your likelihood of developing health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"Some varieties of drinks such as pure fruit juices and smoothies which are perceived as 'healthy options' are also very high in sugar.

"For many people struggling with their weight, reducing their intake of such drinks and replacing with water or diet drinks would be a sensible first target to help them lessen their calorie intake.

"For some, this change might seem difficult or impossible as they admit to having a 'sweet tooth'. However, it is now clear that our taste buds can be retrained over time to enjoy far less sugar in drinks (or no sugar at all).

"But people deserve support and encouragement to make these changes and the soft drinks industry also has a role to play here by providing drinks with less sugar or offering cheaper diet versions."

This article was published on Tue 17 April 2012

Image © Gresei -

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