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Alarming Amounts Of Sugar Found In Many Hot Flavored Drinks

Last updated Feb. 18, 2016

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

While sugar is easy to spot in candy, soft drinks and ice cream, it also hides out in foods you might not expect -- including peanut butter, pasta sauce and even bologna! Robert Lustig decodes confusing labels and sugar's many aliases to help determine just how much of that sweet carbohydrate makes its way into our diets.

According to a new report by the British group Action on Sugar, 98% of flavored hot drinks sold at major coffee shops in the United Kingdom have excessive amounts of sugar per serving. Thirty-five percent of those hot drinks contain nine or more teaspoons of sugar, the same amount as in a can of Coca-Cola.

The World Health Organization recommends adults and children to keep their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their caloric intake. If individuals reduced their daily sugar intake to below 5% or approximately 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, they would have additional health benefits.

Free sugars refer to monosaccharides like glucose, fructose, and disaccharides like table sugar and lactose added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

Action on Sugar describes itself as "a group of specialists concerned with sugar and its effects on health." Its advisers and staff of doctors, nutritionists, and public health experts analyzed 131 hot drinks, including flavored coffees, teas, and mulled (flavored with spice mix/es) fruit drinks.

What was the largest culprit for the most amount of sugar in their survey? Starbucks’s Venti Hot Mulled Fruit - Grape with Chai, Orange and Cinnamon contained a whopping 25 grams, or 18 teaspoons, of sugar per serving. That is almost three times more sugar than in one can of Coca-Cola.

"These flavored hot drinks should be an occasional treat, not an 'everyday' drink. They are laden with an unbelievable amount (of) sugar and calories and are often accompanied by a high sugar and fat snack," said Kawther Hashem, a researcher for Action on Sugar.

The long-term effects of excessive sugar intake can include the following complications: unintentional weight gain, insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes, liver failure, pancreatic cancer, high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart disease, and cognitive decline.

Additional Resources:

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  2. 2harma, N., Okere, I. C., Barrows, B. R., Lei, B., Duda, M. K., Yuan, C. L., ... & Hoit, B. D. (2008). High-sugar diets increase cardiac dysfunction and mortality in hypertension compared to low-carbohydrate or high-starch diets.Journal of hypertension, 26(7), 1402.
  3. Port, A. M., Ruth, M. R., & Istfan, N. W. (2012). Fructose consumption and cancer: is there a connection?. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity, 19(5), 367-374.
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  5. Basu, S., Yoffe, P., Hills, N., & Lustig, R. H. (2013). The relationship of sugar to population-level diabetes prevalence: an econometric analysis of repeated cross-sectional data. PloS one, 8(2), e57873.
  6. Basciano, H., Federico, L., & Adeli, K. (2005). Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia. Nutrition & metabolism, 2(1), 5.
  7. Malik, V. S., Pan, A., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2013). Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 98(4), 1084-1102.
  8. WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2016, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/
  9. Shocking amount of sugar found in many hot flavoured drinks. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2016, from http://www.actiononsugar.org/News Centre/Surveys /2016/170865.html

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Feb. 18, 2016
Last updated: Feb. 18, 2016