Fruit drinks and cordials ‘contributing to childhood obesity’

Sugar levels in popular drinks aimed at children are often as high as those in fizzy drinks

A survey of labels  by  Safefood has found sugar levels in a wide selection of popular drinks aimed at children are often as high as those in fizzy drinks. Photograph: Getty

A survey of labels by Safefood has found sugar levels in a wide selection of popular drinks aimed at children are often as high as those in fizzy drinks. Photograph: Getty

Mon, Dec 2, 2013, 09:41

Parents have been warned that many fruit drinks are not a “healthy alternative” to soft drinks and often contain as much or more sugar.

Safefood said the sugar content of fruit drinks and cordials aimed at children is contributing to childhood obesity and released a survey showing the levels of sugar in such beverages.

Some parents are under the impression that because some juice drinks use the term ‘fruit’ that they were a healthier alternative to fizzy drinks, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of human health and nutrition with Safefood said.

“What parents may not realise is that these drinks are often really high in sugar and could contain as much sugar as ‘fizzy’ soft drinks,” she said.

The Safefood survey looked at more than 50 popular fizzy, cordial and fruit juiice drinks. It showed that a 200ml serving of Coca-cola or Pepsi contains the equivalent of four cubes of sugar (21.2g) and a 200ml serving of Sprite contains the equivalent of three cubes of sugar (13.2g). However it also shows that a Capri Sun Apple and Blackcurrant drink or a Tropicana orange juice contain the equivalent of four cubes of sugar (20g).

Dr Foley-Nolan explained that juicing a fruit releases the sugar but gets rid of the fibre and the pulp making it “infinitely more sugary than eating a whole apple”. Dr Foley-Nolan said a recent survey had found that 45 per cent of children were drinking soft drinks at least once a day or more.

“The message really is choose water instead of juice drinks,” she said.

There is clear evidence linking the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks to overweight and obesity among children and adolescents, Professor Donal O’Shea, obesity specialist with the HSE said. Water or milk were the best drinks for children, he said.

Safefood recommends parents not to buy the drinks as a rule, not to offer them at mealtimes, to switch to water at the cinema and eating out. Safefood advises that a small 100ml glass of 100 per cent fruit juice or a no sugar-added smoothie once a day is fine and counts as one of a child’s five a day

The Beverage Council of Ireland, which represents the soft drinks, fruit drink and bottled water industries, said fruit juice provided a combination of “ vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are important for everyone’s health” and were one of the recommended five fruit and vegetables a day. The organisation was in “full agreement about the need to tackle Ireland’s obsity rates”.

For more see safefood.eu.