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Sugar Content of Carbonated Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in the UK is ALARMINGLY High and a Major Contributor to Sugar Intake – BMJ Open Study Reveals


A study being published on 15th November in the BMJ Open entitled: Cross-sectional survey of the amount of sugar and calories in carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages on sale in the UK reveals, that the sugar content in carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages (CSSB) was found to be alarmingly high – with large variation in sugar content between different flavours and within the same type of flavour ranging from 3.3 to 52.8 g/330 mL – equivalent to 12 teaspoons.
On average, ginger beer (38.5±9.9 g/ 330 mL) contained the highest amounts of sugar and ginger ale (22.9±7.7 g/330 mL) contained the lowest amount of sugar.
Cola flavour contained 35.0±1.1 g/330 mL of free sugar, ranging from 32.0 to 37.3 g/330 mL. The supermarket own brand contained lower levels of sugars than branded products (27.9±10.6 vs 31.6±10.6 g/ 330 mL). Whilst Cola flavour is the most popular flavour in the UK with an average sugar content of 35.0±1.1 g/ 330 mL, owing to the huge volume consumed, even small reductions would have a significant impact on sugar and calorie intake of the population.
On average, a can (330 mL) of CSSB (30.1±10.7 g/ 330 mL) contains more than the entire maximum daily recommendation for sugar intake in the UK (30 g – 7.5 teaspoons), with 55% exceeding the maximum UK’ s daily recommendation for sugar intake (30 g) per 330 mL can size and 73% of the products exceeding the maximum daily recommendation for free sugars intake for a child (24 g/d).

Soft drinks are the main contributor of free sugars intake in children (4-10 years), teenagers (11-18 years) and the second main contributor in adults (18-64 years) – contributing to 30%, 40% and 25% of free sugars intake, respectively. Within soft drinks, carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages are an important contributor of free sugars intake. Carbonates were the largest single category of the soft drinks market in 2013 with a 44.8% market share of volume.
The findings demonstrate that the amount of sugar added to CSSB could be reduced without technical issues, there is an urgent need to reduce sugar by either setting incremental sugar reduction targets or ensuring the soft drinks sugar levy does result in reductions in sugar levels.
Currently in the UK a tiered soft drinks industry levy is being proposed (high, low and no tax for drinks >8g, 5g to 8g, and <5 sugar per 100ml respectively), which encourages companies to reduce the amount of sugar if they want to avoid the levy. Of the drinks surveyed 142 out of 169 need to be reduced to below 5g/100ml to avoid the levy.
This study is now calling for all sugar sweetened drinks to be reduced below 5g/100ml threshold as well as other measures including mandatory front of pack labeling of free sugars, public education, portion size reductions and warning labels. This reduction in sugar content and overall consumption will reduce obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental caries.

Kawther Hashem co-author of the BMJ Open study and researcher for Action on Sugar at Queen Mary University of London says, “Our study shows that the majority of carbonated sugar-sweetened drinks available in supermarkets exceed the maximum daily recommendation for sugar intake for an adult (30g/d) and a child (24g/d). It is therefore not possible to state that carbonated sugar-sweetened drinks can
be consumed as part of a ‘healthy balanced diet’ even though drinks companies claim it can be. “Cola flavour is the most popular flavour in the UK, owing to the huge volume
consumed; even small reductions would have a significant impact on free sugars and calorie intake of the population. We hope the soft drinks industry levy will make drinks manufacturers reduce the levels of sugar in their products immediately and help reduce our risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental caries.

Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Sugar says, “This study illustrates the huge contribution of sugar-sweetened drinks to our sugar intake, which is directly linked to the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes. We welcome the soft drinks industry levy and particularly the incentive it’s created to companies that want to avoid the levy by reducing the sugar levels to below 5g/100ml. “This has already resulted in one of the largest supermarkets (Tesco) to reduce sugar in all their own brand soft drinks to below 5g/100ml.4 Suntory have also pledged that they will reduce sugar in all their sugar sweetened drinks to below the lower band levy, this includes for instance Lucozade and Ribena.5 Other supermarkets and branded companies must now follow suit, particularly Coca Cola and PepsiCo, as sugar sweetened drinks are the main contributor to sugar intake, in children and adolescents.”

Please follow this link to read the full paper 

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