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Smoothies and fruit juices marketed to children as healthier alternatives may be much more sugary than you realize, according to a conducted by a team from the University of Liverpool.
The study sought to evaluate the levels of free sugars, which may be added by the manufacturer or come about from converting whole fruits into juices and syrups, and which undergo a different metabolic process as compared to similar sugars found in vegetables and whole fruits.
They tested 203 products specifically marketed for children, and easily found in all leading supermarkets across the UK. These products were in three broad categories; fruit juices, smoothies, and juice drinks.
In their tests, they found that the sugar levels ranged from zero to 16g/100ml.
Smoothies were found to have the highest levels of sugar, averaging at about 13g/100ml, while fruit juice had 10.7g/100ml.
At first glance, this would seem normal, what with 13g being equal to about 2.5 teaspoons of sugar, which is below the 3-4 teaspoons a day recommended by the American Heart Association for children.
But standard serving portions are actually 200ml, and in the UK, the maximum recommended daily amount of sugar intake is set at 19g for 4-6yo, and 24g for 7-10yo.
That would mean that a child drinking an average smoothie would ingest two more grams of sugar than is recommended for a 10yo.
85 of these products had at least 19g of free sugars in a standard serving, making it highly likely that the child partaking of such drinks would ingest more sugar, as dietary sources of sugar are plentiful, and this is but one source.
What’s more, the researchers found that the recommended intake mentioned on the label applied to “an average sized adult woman”, not the children to whom such products are often aimed at.
According to Prof. Simon Capewell, lead author of the study, “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.”
What does he recommend? Eat the whole fruit, not the juiced version.