Campaign group Action on Sugar has analysed the amount of sugar in drinks on the menu at high street cafés such as Starbucks, Costa and Caffè Nero. The results aren’t so good: more than a third of these drinks have more sugar than a can of Coca-Cola.
Of the 131 drinks Action on Sugar analysed, 98 percent would receive a “red” nutrition rating for the excessive amount of sugar they contain.
The group says that each year 1.7 billion cups of coffee are sold across the U.K. from over 18,000 outlets. One in five of us visit a café every day. It makes sense then to have a look at what exactly the country is imbibing.
The worst example the group found was the Venti Hot Mulled Fruit drink from Starbucks. It has 25 teaspoons (or 99 grams) of sugar per serving. That’s the equivalent of five muffins’ worth of sweetness. It’s also three times the recommended maximum daily intake of sugar (7 teaspoons).
Other offenders included the Costa Massimo Chai Latte with 20 teaspoons, the Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream with 18 teaspoons, the Starbucks Venti Signature Hot Chocolate with 15 teaspoons, the KFC Mocha, also with 15 teaspoons, and Caffè Nero’s Caramelatte with 13 teaspoons of sugar.
Of the drinks analysed, 35 percent are actually a worse option, in terms of sugar intake, than drinking a can of Coca-Cola. This is damning given that a can of the fizzy drink, with nine teaspoons of sugar, has more than a day’s recommended sugar intake and is equivalent to seven chocolate biscuits.
The group pointed out that even drinks marketed as “healthy,” such as Starbucks Venti Chai Tea Latte and Eat’s Big Chai Latte and Matcha Latte, contain more sugar than a can of Coke.
While the excessive sweetness of the drinks is a problem so too are the serving sizes. Starbucks in particular offers larger than average sizes, with its largest containing over half a litre of coffee.
The government will shortly release its strategy on reducing childhood obesity and sugar could be a point of reform. Last year a Commons Select Committee argued that “bold and urgent action from Government” is needed in order to reduce potential health burdens. Currently the U.K. government spends £638 million on obesity prevention programmes but £5.1 billion on the implications of existing obesity. Type two diabetes, for which obesity is a risk factor, further accounts for £8.8 billion of the national budget. The report found that in order to avoid additional spending the government may need to tax sugary foods and drinks and mandate better labelling of products’ sugar content, among other potential solutions.
The NHS advises that most people in the U.K., both adults and children, eat too much sugar. Excessive sugar intake increases an individual’s risk of being overweight and obese, which in turn increases their risk of diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions. Sugar can also cause tooth decay.
As such the NHS recommends cutting down on sugar through strategies like replacing fizzy drinks with less sugary ones and replacing sugary spreads such as jam with low-fat cream cheese or a banana. The NHS also says, “there are lots of small changes you can make, which can add up and make quite a difference over the course of a day.”
For coffee lovers that might mean going for a smaller drink, or a simpler one without syrups or added sugar, or perhaps going on fewer Starbucks trips altogether.