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Sugar levels in soft drinks 'shockingly high'

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed
child drinking soda

13th June 2014 – Traditional and 'upmarket' soft drinks frequently contain more sugar than Coca Cola, according to a new analysis.

Campaigners say more must be done to cut sugar levels in fizzy drinks to avoid contributing to the increase in obesity and diabetes.

The drinks industry is responding by saying it is working towards a larger range of low or no calorie products and accuses the campaigners of being politically motivated.


The pressure group Action on Sugar sampled 232 sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks from 9 major supermarkets. Branded drinks were included along with the supermarkets' own brand products.

They found that 79% of the drinks contained 6 or more teaspoons of sugar per 330ml can.

The worst offenders were Old Jamaica ginger beer and Jammin sparkling ginger beer, which contained the equivalent of 13 teaspoons of sugar in each 330ml serving.

Club Orange contained 12 teaspoons of sugar, Sainsbury's cloudy lemonade contained 11, and Marks and Spencer Florida orange contained 10.

Some elderflower sparkling drinks and 63% of ginger beer drinks contain more sugars than Coca Cola, the research shows.

Red traffic lights

Action on Sugar says that 9 out of 10 of the sugary fizzy drinks sampled would receive a 'red' traffic light warning for sugars, indicating that they contained between 11.25g and 13.5g of sugar per 100ml.

They say that sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks contribute, on average, 16% of an adult's daily added sugar intake, while that figure rises to 29% for teenagers.

In a statement, Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar says: "Added sugars are completely unnecessary in our diets and are strongly linked to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as well as to dental caries – which remains a major problem for children and adults.

"We urge the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP, to set incremental targets for sugar reduction now – and to start with these sugary drinks. Replacing sugar with sweeteners is not the answer: we need to reduce overall sweetness so people’s tastes can adjust to having less sweet drinks."

'Political zeal'

Responding to the analysis in a statement, Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, says: "Blinded by political zeal, these campaigners appear to have missed the 60% of soft drinks on the market which contain no added sugar. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they have also ignored the evidence that shows obesity arises from an imbalance of calories consumed and calories expended and is not caused by one particular ingredient.

"Soft drinks manufacturers have led the way over many years in providing an increasing range of low and no calorie drinks. It’s worth remembering that Government figures show soft drinks contribute just 3% of calories to the average diet."

Reviewed on June 12, 2014

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