Sugar overload: Britain's worst children's drinks revealed


Children's favourite juices and drinks contain as much sugar as 11 Hobnob biscuits or four Krispy Kreme donuts, it has been revealed.

Many parents buy the drinks in the belief they are giving their children a healthy treat without realising the astonishingly high levels of sugar they contain.

Now online doctor service Dr Ed has compiled a list of what it says are the Worst Children's Drinks in Britain. One contained 42g of sugar – and many had sugar added.

Here, Dr Ed Medical Director and GP Dr Sebastian Winckler explains the results of the survey and how you can reduce your children's sugar intake.

"Sugar is the real villain in the fight against obesity, and not fat, as was previously thought," he said.

"In a new book 'Fat Chance: The Bitter Truth About Sugar', Dr Robert Lustig likens the sweet stuff to drugs such as cocaine and heroin, and says that we must wean ourselves off it.
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And if you think that because you're serving your children fruit juice or smoothies rather than coke and fizzy drinks that you're okay, then you're wrong!

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"The point is that liquid sugars are dangerous for children's health. Why? In a word: fructose. Unlike other sugars, when you consume fructose (a glass of orange juice or Coke), it all goes straight to the liver, as nowhere else in the body can metabolise fructose. This overloads the liver and causes problems like liver fat, high blood pressure, and high insulin levels.

"So does this mean we shouldn't eat fruit? No! The reason why drinks are so bad is due to their lack of fibre. When you eat fruit, fibre forms a protective layer that acts as a barrier to the intestine. This slows absorption of sugar, so the liver has a chance to catch up.

"In fizzy drinks, fruit juices and smoothies, the barrier has gone, which leads to the liver being overloaded."

Dr Winckler added: "I think all parents want to make the best health decisions for their children. When new research uncovers a popular myth like this, it's important that parents know about it as soon as possible. Particularly as children are such heavy consumers of soft drinks."


So are manufacturers trying to hoodwink us with misleading labels?

Dr Winckler said: "We found that information is clearly labelled in most cases. The traffic light system for example is a great visual representation of the health facts of that product. However, what's much more important is that people understand and make buying decisions based on that information.

"Where some manufacturers do fall down is in mislabelling (in other words hiding) sugar content by using words such as carbohydrate, glucose and dextrose, to describe what is basically sugar. This could certainly be improved through legislation."


Should these drinks be banned?

"We don't think they should be banned, but we think consumption of these drinks should be viewed as a treat rather than a regular occurrence," said Dr Winckler.

"Added sugar is everywhere in our diets though, not just in drinks. Parents should look out for it in many of the day to day foods that they give to their child. Sauces, salad dressings, bread are prime examples."


Do fruit drinks and smoothies have ANY nutritional value?

"Drinking a fruit juice or smoothie is definitely better than drinking a fizzy drink," said Dr Winckler.

"There are some health benefits from the juice, and unlike fizzy drinks, there isn't any caffeine or added salt.

"On sugar content alone though, we think it's better to consume the fruit rather than the juice. Not only does fruit stop your liver from being overloaded, it gives you fibre which is important for your diet and the process of chewing helps you to feel full and stops you from wanting more.

"At the end of the day, sugar
is an enjoyable treat. But it should be treated as just that: a treat. If we can give parents the knowledge to allow them to make better health decisions, that's all we can ask for."


How To Cut Down Your Children's Sugar Intake

• Give them only milk or water to drink.

• Sugary treats should be a rarity. Perhaps once a week.

• Eat the fruit. Don't drink the juice or smoothie.

• When baking, reduce the sugar in the recipe by a third.

• Watch out for added sugar in foods where you would not expect it. Bread, sauces and dressings are prime examples.


More on Parentdish: Is 'healthy' fruit juice rotting your child's teeth?


DrEd is an online doctor service operating in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, treating around100 patients per day.

Have a look in our gallery below for the worst offenders: