Campaign group warns of risks of sugar consumption leading to obesity and diabetes
Traditional and upmarket fizzy drinks such as ginger beer and cloudy lemonade contain more sugar than Coca-Cola and Pepsi, according to a new analysis.
Nearly four out of five (79%) 330ml cans of fizzy drinks contain more than six teaspoons of sugar, according to the campaign Action on Sugar, which has analysed 232 drinks sold in leading supermarkets.
The worst offenders are ginger beers, such as Old Jamaica ginger beer and Jammin sparkling ginger beer flavour drink, which have the equivalent of 13 teaspoons of sugar per 330ml serving. Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's ginger beers have 11. Coca-Cola and Pepsi have nine.
Also very high in sugar are Club Orange (12 teaspoons), Sainsbury's cloudy lemonade (11 teaspoons) and Fanta grape-flavoured drink (11 teaspoons). Other drinks which some people may chose out of an assumption that they are healthier, such as elderflower and grape juice, also exceed the sugar levels in colas.
Action on Sugar says almost all the sweetened drinks have far too much sugar for our health. Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other popular drinks like Sprite and Dr Pepper are particularly concerning because of the numbers of people who drink them and the frequency with which they do so. Coca-Cola has just announced a new version, with lower sugar, but campaigners protest that it will still contain the equivalent of four teaspooons.
The survey is published before a report, expected later this month, on carbohydrates including sugar in the national diet from the government's nutrition advisory body, SACN, which may recommend lower levels. The World Health Organisation has recently set a guideline limit of 10% of daily calories from sugar, with a recommendation that countries should aim to get it down as low as 5%. However, the recent official national diet and nutrition survey showed adults and children in England were exceeding the 11% current target - children were consuming around 15% of their calories as sugars, and a third of those came from soft drinks and fruit juices.
"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," said Professor Graham MacGregor of Action on Sugar, who also runs a campaign to lower salt intake.
"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.
"A similar approach has successfully reduced salt intake; people are consuming 15% less salt than they were 10 years ago, and now prefer less salty foods. This policy is estimated to be saving 9,000 lives a year, plus healthcare savings of £1.5bn a year. It is now time to do the same for sugar."
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