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Hidden Sugars May be Making Your Child (and you) Fat

Tim Boyer's picture
hidden Sugars and Weight Gain

According to a new study published in the online open access British Medical Journal, parents are being misled when it comes to hidden sugars that may be making your child and you fat with this popular food item.


Summer will be here soon, and so will thirsty children and adults who typically bring a cooler filled with drinks to a soccer or baseball game to quench those thirsts. And while you as a parent may be patting yourself on the back watching your active child burn off those calories during the game, it turns out that you may be unknowingly replenishing all those spent calories (and more) with the beverages you brought to the game. But we’re not talking about sodas here, rather fruit-based beverages that come in those handy packs with a straw.

According to new research the sugar content of fruit drinks, including natural fruit juices and smoothies is significantly higher than that recommended on a daily basis for children. And surprisingly, it may be healthier to buy a fruit drink rather than an advertised 100% fruit juice beverage.

Scientists from the University of Liverpool recently decided to determine the actual amount of sugars in fruit juices, juice drinks and smoothies marketed to children. According to the university’s news release and published open access study in BMJ Open, 203 beverages marketed for children were identified in supermarkets that consisted of 21 100% fruit juices, 158 juice drinks and 24 smoothies. The focus of the analysis was the amount of free sugars found in the typical 200 ml servings. Free sugars were defined as those added to the drinks that included glucose, fructose, sucrose, table sugar, and glucose-fructose syrup.

Hidden Sugar Amounts in Kid's Drinks

What the researchers found was that:

• Sugars content ranged from 0 to 16 g/100 ml with a mean average of 7.0 g/100 ml.

• Juice drinks averaged the lowest sugar amount (5.6 g/100 ml); 100% juices came in 2nd highest at nearly twice the juice drink amount at 10.7 g/100 ml; and, smoothies were the highest of them all at 13.0 g/100 ml.

• 85 of the 203 beverages tested contained at least 19 g of sugars—a child's entire maximum daily amount of sugars with 57 containing sugar (sucrose), 65 containing non-caloric sweeteners, 5 containing both sugar and non-caloric sweeteners ( see Fake Sugars that Kill); and, 7 containing glucose-fructose syrup.

• Beverages were misleading the consumer by referring to intake levels that apply toward an average sized active adult woman rather than the levels that apply toward a child.

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“Unfortunately our research shows that these parents have been misled. The sugar content of the fruit drinks, including natural fruit juices and smoothies tested is unacceptably high. And smoothies are among the worst offenders,” stated co-author Professor Simon Capewell. “Manufacturers should stop adding unnecessary amounts of sugars, and therefore calories, to their fruit drink/juice/smoothie products. Our kids are being harmed for the sake of industry profits. If companies can’t slash sugar voluntarily, the government should step in with statutory regulations.”

Tips for Reducing the Amount of Sugar in Your Child’s Beverages

As a result of the findings, the researchers offer this advice for reducing sugar intake:

• Fruit should preferably be eaten WHOLE, not as juice

• Parents should DILUTE fruit juice with water or opt for unsweetened juices, and only serve these drinks during meals

• Portion sizes should be limited to 150 ml/day (not the current 200ml)

For more related content, here is an informative article about some diet foods with hidden sugar, and an article titled “The juice trap: 5 healthy foods that are ruining your teeth.”


University of Liverpool “How much sugar is in your child’s fruit drink?

How much sugar is hidden in drinks marketed to children? A survey of fruit juices, juice drinks and smoothiesBMJ Open Vol. 6 issue 3; Jane Boulton et al.

Image courtesy of Pixabay