‘Healthy’ fruit drinks laden with calories, says study
A GLASS of fruit juice or a smoothie may seem like a healthy option, but people often seriously underestimate the number of calories they are consuming from fruit-based drinks, new research has claimed.
Scientists from Glasgow University believe people are mistakenly consuming extra calories because they do not understand the level of natural sugars found in juice.
The research reveals that many people get around a quarter of their recommended daily energy intake from liquids – and suggests that hidden calories in drinks could be a factor in Britain’s obesity problem.
Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: “A typical fruit juice will have 40-50 calories per 100ml, which is equivalent to ten grams of sugar.
“I see patients come into my clinic who are struggling with their weight and who believe fruit juice is good for you and they take a lot of it.
“For people who are fit and healthy, it is fine, but for people who are struggling with their weight it may be a factor.
“This survey shows that people underestimate by a large amount the amount of sugar in fruit juice.”
Researchers asked more than 2,000 people from across the UK to estimate the amount of sugar in different drinks, such as chocolate milkshake, cola, fruit squash and fruit smoothies.
The findings show that while people sometimes overestimate the amount of sugar in carbonated drinks, they significantly underestimate the sugar levels in smoothies and fruit juices.
People underestimated the amount of sugar in a serving of pomegranate juice by an average of 17.9 teaspoons, while they overestimated the amount of sugar in a serving of fruit squash by almost seven teaspoons.
Prof Sattar said: “This confirms that many people are not aware of the high calorie levels in many commonly consumed drinks. Some pure fruit juices and smoothies, which are perceived as ‘healthy’ options, are also very high in sugar.
“For many people struggling with their weight, reducing their intake of such drinks and replacing with water or diet drinks would be a sensible first target to help them lessen their calorie intake.
“It doesn’t matter that it comes from a natural source – sugar is sugar.” Those surveyed were also asked to estimate their average weekly liquid consumption in detail, suggesting the average person in the UK consumes 659 grams of sugar and 3,144 calories per week in the form of liquid. This is the equivalent of nearly a quarter of recommended daily calories for a woman and a fifth for men.
Sasha Watkins, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, said: “Research suggests it makes it hard for us to regulate the amount of calories we take in the form of drinks, rather than as food. We would only recommend one glass of fruit juice of 150ml, which does count towards your five a day. But we don’t recommend more than that because of the sugar content. Smoothies can sometimes count as two of your five a day.”
Dr Elizabeth Weichselbaum, a nutrition scientist from the British Nutrition Foundation, added: “It is very common that people under or overestimate the amount of energy (calories) in various foods and drinks.
“Fruit juices and smoothies provide us with vitamins and minerals and count towards our five a day. But fruit juices and smoothies also contain sugar, naturally present in fruit.”
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