/ Food & Drink

Could cutting sugar in soft drinks reduce obesity rates?

Nutrition label

As a nation we’re eating an awful lot of sugar. So could a simple cut to the added sugar in soft drinks help to reduce our over-consumption?

Many of us enjoy a sugary treat every now and again. Some of these treats are obvious – a slice of cake for example – but others are not so blatant in their sugar content, perhaps a glass of orange juice or lemonade. Well these sugary treats all have their consequences when consumed in excessive amounts.

According to a recent academic study published in the journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, a gradual reduction in sugars added to sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fruit juices by 40% over five years could lead to around half a million fewer adults being overweight and one million from being obese.

Sugary drinks

According to the Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), a large proportion of our sugar intake comes from sugary soft drinks. And particularly so among young people.

In fact, sugary drinks account for almost a third of a child’s daily sugar intake. So as well as halving recommended sugar intakes overall, the Committee recommended cutting consumption of these sugary drinks.

This latest study supports the need for more to be done to help people cut down. If manufacturers gradually reduced the sugar content in our food and drink in the first place, similar to what’s been done with salt, we’d all consume a lot less sugar without necessarily realising it. In turn, this would lead to longer-term health benefits.

If this study is accurate then it would prevent 274,000-309,000 cases of obesity-related type 2 diabetes over the following two decades.

But lowering sugar levels alone won’t be enough. Obesity and diet-related diseases have a complex mix of causes and require a broad range of actions.

It’s a sticky problem

From our research and that by others such as Public Health England, we know that other issues, such as the way that foods high in sugar are more heavily promoted in-store, or are still too heavily advertised to children clearly have an influence on what we eat and frustrate people too.

While food labelling has come a long way, there’s still a need for greater transparency about how much sugar is in some foods as some manufacturers still don’t put traffic light labelling on their products. Our research has regularly highlighted how there can be high levels of sugar in unsuspecting products, such as in some savoury ready meals for example.

Which is why we have stressed that these issues, along targets for sugar reduction, should be included in the Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy, which is due to be published soon.

Do you think more needs to be done about sugar in soft-drinks? What about hidden sugar in our food?


Personally I feel that this will achieve nothing
The Diet or Light versions are well known to make you hungry and the sugary ones make you thirsty so vicious circles
Your not going to get much ground with the drinks industry because politics will get i the way or rather the business lobbiest will get to our politicians with job cut threats and dear knows what other pressure but back to the point
Controlling weight is becoming a really big issue one that needs tackled and while POP plays a part the people have an even bigger part to play
When ours wee young we have an awful time defeating Grannies Cola habits
Granny was brill but this was an up hill battle and weight was not the issue. Hyper was our sons problem
If we were away in the caravan he was a good as gold but at home he was a headache
Once after 2 weeks away during which we were very pleased with all three we noticed that Coke might be the cause
Without spelling it all out we were correct but Grannie turned out near as big a problem as the coke itself
I see and have been with countless people who stop at the services. Walk inn and order xxxxx with large fries and a Diet coke
This looks like crazy but its a therapeutic thing. The Diet Coke is their way of doing the right thing so it just goes to show that this is not a simple problem indeed far from simple
I feel that the calls to reduce/lower this soft drink sugar is simply an exercise that we must go through and when we do this all will be fixed but it is not as simple as this and never will be
People like to fool themselves. Politicians like to fool themselves. Everybody wants the answer but no one wants to ask the correct question
The problem is not the drinks but we ar about to blame the drinks industry
Yes they make the stuff and yes again they advertise it but they do not pour it down our throats
No different than alcoholic beverages
The question should not involved blame and the solution should not involve blame
The industry is way too big and powerful and will manipulate its way around the goal posts no odds where you set them
Look at tobacco. They’re still fighting to the last thread
No I think the problem starts when we are young and we get a lot of satisfaction from food
We have a grandson now and again
He is 9 months and enjoys his food and from no age opened his mouth like a bird in teh nest in expectation of food so if a brand new human gets a great kick from eating a lifetime eater is probably going to have trouble kicking the habit
Now if we have overindulged in this very enjoyable habit from a young age the amount of enjoyment will be greater and the results will be greater. the results being the weight. The thing that didnt used to sit between me and my laptop. The bit that started when I was ill and comfort ate. It’s about 20 or 30lb weight and try’s to push my trousers down
Yes I know its not good looking. I know its probably not good for my health but the fact I know both and its still there would also tell me that if sugary drinks were my kick lowering the sugar would do nothing to help me
I would still get the sugar from somewhere.
More life stories
Once upon a time I had a boss
He had a bad habit.
He stopped at a shop every morning and bought himself a Lucozade and a Mars bar
This guy incidentally would give off about smoking!!!!!!!!
Every evening he would detour again and we used to watch him from the far side of the car park as sometimes we’d stop for a chat after work
He didnt know we knew
Once I ran up the stairs into the back store room. I’m very quiet on my feet. Here at the top f the stairs is a grown adult male, director, boss in his 40s with a Luc and a Mars
I scared the s***t out of him and what was his first words
Dont tell B******* (his wife) I’m up here, she’ll kill me
He knew but what could he do
This is a much bigger problem and much more of an addiction than we realise and removing the sugar from POP will be just another thing that we will expect to give results.
However we’ll have to wait as alway because weight doesnt fall of in a day or a week so we’ll have to wait for a couple of years to we get folk weened off of these drinks
After all this waiting I’ll bet there’s not one lighter sugarholic
They’ll just be forced to go elsewhere
No the answer is much more complicated but Gov’s dont do complicated Gov’s and Bodies do answers and only answers and they always have the answers
Who’s kidding who kidds

Know exactly what you mean when you say defeating Grannies habits. As a kid, I looked forward to seeing grandma once a week for my sugary treats as I didn’t get tham at home.

I also understand putting on weight through illness. I am now trying to lose the weight put on when comfort food was the only thing I could eat and exercise was too much effort. Weight goes on a lot faster than it comes off but at least now I can stomach salads and other healthier food. I gave up telling doctors I am still ill and and putting on weight…….

My mother did not buy sweetened soft drinks other than orange squash, except at Christmas. I was quite old when she told me that she had discouraged me from putting sugar in tea or coffee when I was young. Now I simply hate sweet drinks. Thank goodness because there is enough sugar in food.

What concerns me is that fruit juice is seen as a healthy food. Fine to peel and eat one orange but maybe not to drink the equivalent of several oranges as juice.

Sugar and salt are the 2 things that make a lot of processed food and drink palatable. Take them out and the cost would go up if they had to use other things to improve taste.

As my other half is a diabetic (I believe caused by 2 medications that have diabetes as a side effect, not being overweight) and managed to be diet-controlled for 11 years, we are well used to buying low-carb food and drink. We aim for less than 4% sugar and also look at the overall carbs. Most processed food and drink is too high in both.

Years ago I tasted pure Stevia. It is reported to be 200 times sweeter than sugar and it will be interesting to see how this develops. Pure Stevia doesn’t seem to be available in this country but has the potential to be the answer to sweetness.

Growing up, sweets and crisps were a treat. I was brought up to drink tea without sugar and would rather have water than sweet squashes or fizzy drinks although I do like a bit of sugar in coffee. I never liked artificial sweeteners but have used agave nectar and more recently Sukrin as my sweetener. Although we like a bit of chocolate now and again, we buy nuts instead of crisps.

Don’t know if I have less of a sweet tooth as I get older or whether sugar has been increased, but I no longer have Horlicks or Baxters Tomato Soup because they are too sweet. I really miss Horlicks and wish they would use a lot less sugar but would there be anything left in the jar? You can always add a bit of sweetness but you can’t take it out.

Ocado do an Indian Meal Deal. It was 2 mains, 2 sides and 1 rice and good value for £10. 2 mains and a rice made a good meal and the sides went in the freezer for a light meal. Now it is 2 mains, 1 side, 1 rice and a COKE. We don’t drink coke and if you take the deal without it another £2+ was added to the bill. So we just got the 2 mains and Ocado lost out selling us more products.

I like fizzy drinks, but rarely buy ready made ones. High juice orange squash, Roses lime juice (produced by Coca Cola) with bottled sparkling water are popular, and seem to contain around 5g of sugar or less per glass. However, not convenient when you are out and about.

Like Alfa, my tooth has changed in some ways. I used to like sweetened condensed milk from the tin, 4 spoons of sugar in tea and coffee. Now I drink tea and coffee without sugar, but I think that is more to do with appreciating the real taste of the drink rather than anything else. But marron glace and glace fruits, toffee (liquorice especially), florentines, chocs all go down well, but in moderation.

Good luck with persuading Coca Cola to reduce their sugar content. When we allow them to sponsor “healthy” events like the Olympics I see little hope.

Six spoons of sugar in a glass of pop is frightening, but I also abreact to drinks with artificial sweeteners in them, so the “lite” versions are just as poisonous for me. Marmalade is my biggest vice. At least I know that, whereas eating food where the sugar content is hidden is more of a problem. Then it’s a question of reading the label. Sugar is an inexpensive way to make food palatable. One way to cut down is to use basic ingredients to cook with. Then, everything is under one’s control. I believe we, as humans, are naturally drawn to sweet things but I do agree that manufacturers feed this desire and they ought to be investing in ways of reducing sugar in the products they make.

Hi Vynor, There was a documentary many years back about nutrasweet and how it had made its way into our lives.
It had not very good beginnings but continued as it does today
Personally I do not like the taste of the stuff. I get a chemical tinge from it and did even before the program
Anyhow what I’m saying is that I agree with you. Lite/Diet etc are not the answer
They have half of us hooked on sugar and we’re loving it
I liked Ribena as a child and still do and a glass of it has not 5 spoons of sugar but is nice
I wont have Coke in the house for many reasons least of all sugar
When the event requires we have all kinds of soft drinks in the house and there are few that dont like Sainsburys Classic Lemonade. Yes it has to have loads of sugar but its the lemon that everyone likes it seems
Its not good but its better than sweeteners and its cheaper
Still I’ll stay with Ribena as the regular soft tipple
The favorite is Brandy but I’ve learned that Dementia may be brought on or aided by alcohol consumption as my father is attending memory clinic at present and I asked why there were so many questions about alcohol consumption. He was not an alcoholic or legless half his time far from it but I’m being told that the statistics are not looking good on this one. So I have enough on my plate with ill health so I’ve backed way off of my little glass in the evening or tumblerful as wifey called it. Great stuff but there seems to be a price to pay also

Few products have been criticised as much as artificial sweeteners. Consider aspartame – best known as Nutrasweet but widely manufactured since the expiry of the patent. It contains two amino acids (phenylalanine and aspartic acid) that are present in proteins in the food we eat. Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, so it’s not something we actually need in our diet. Those with the inherited condition phenylkenonuria have to be careful about the amount of phenylalanine they consume in foods and are recommended to avoid aspartame. The balance of opinion is that aspartame is safe as a sweetener, and definitely better than being obese.

I used to use aspartame occasionally, but the only sweetener in my kitchen cupboard these days is obtained from the plant stevia. I would be very happy if manufacturers phased out sugars where possible and used stevia-based sweeteners instead.

Brief information about sweeteners can be found on the NHS website: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/the-truth-about-artificial-sweeteners.aspx

More detailed information can be found on Wikipedia.

Never tried Stevia but I’ll keep it in mind
I have been thinking about this subject and the people I know closely and could it be that the most of people I know who could do with loosing weight use diet/light drinks but that is where the effort stops
I’m just going through trips over the last couple years up and down through the UK and I cant help but visionise the events and that seems to be a common theme around me
I dont get at them, oh definitely not because I cannot suffer being told what to do. Thats what me into the mess in the first place. I say no to everything now first. then I can change my mind real easy. try it the other way around and you’ll kill yourself. Anyhow. I always try any show them by example not words that everything does not have to be large or that we dont need the four course lunch and I try gently to point out that I could only eat two courses anyhow in the hope that they’ll make me sit through more.
The problem is that they seem determined to have the biggest
The biggest house
The biggest car
The biggest steak
Even the biggest salad
and obviously the biggest belly and although I’ve put on a bit I’m 14st which is a stone and a half over what I was at 52 so although I’d like a little off I can see I’m not 18st and I can see that I limit myself most of the time
I dont actually like big feeds. I like a good feed and I like breakfast every morning without fail and there are lot of people who could do with a proper breakfast but again breakfast is easy to avoid as long as you dont touch anything and again in my eye’s thats another mind game of telling themselves they haven’t eaten.
I dont like being hungry but no I dont like fogging it in.
What s the point in having water to drink or diet pop to drink and then fogging a 4 course lunch into you
Yes Wave your right. We get too much sugar but I don’t know that its sugar alone they want. I think its a calorie addiction or a food addiction. There more to this than sugar. Neither my wife nor I take sugar in our tea/coffee nor breakfast nor added sugar in near anything. Probably don’t need to the amount that is in everything anyhow.
People like food as best I can see
The portions today are massive from 30 years ago
Even go in and get a chip in the local chippy. F**** me I could not have eaten that when I was 18 and could eat an ox yet I see people munch their way through that and a burgar or a half and half with god knows what else. i just dont know where they put it.
My wife and get a occasionally (every two weeks without fail) Chinese we get chicken curry F/rice. Once between us and we are both full. Want a lunch tomorrow out of it, bring a chip, one chip, along with it and thats 4 meals. The chip must weight well on its way to a kg. I’m 14st. And dont ask?? but neither of us are tiny.
I see other eat the whole chicken curry with sides on their own
I think like the US we just consume too much
Funny I’m just off of F/time with my daughter who lives other side of pond
Her man is from there although strangely the same name
She says that that is all they do. Eat work and sleep
They have recently made the decision to return here as they went out here and visited friends because they werent all 3 hours away and they including him he miss’s the social aspect of our various UK regions
especially the north. The north of anywhere.
She has a degree with honours in dietetics from Queen Margaret and she blames not just sugar but real estate
She says that the KFCs etc all buy real real estate. The real estate in the right place is the important bit.
Its not the food. They have that sorted long since. Plenty of fat and sugar but the real estate can make the difference between a great KFC and a middling KFC. And its not from our point of view its from their point of view.
How on earth are we going to stop this amerised onslaught on consumption because really that is what it is
Like my former boss sitting eating a mars and drinking a quick Luc at the top of the stairs there is a problem
taking sugar out of pop is just a hoop we are told we need to jump through
Incidentally my daughter used here degree to move on. Nice thought. nice idea but no one is listening so its a very thankless profession

“Could cutting sugar in soft drinks reduce obesity rates?”

The answer is obviously yes. The curiosity is why Which? restricts this thread title just to soft drinks!

” On Thursday [7th Jan], the Obama administration finally announced its new dietary guidelines—the government’s highly influential food rules that are updated every five years. The release comes after a year of heated argument over what should be included in the new rules and debate over the science used to create them.
Among the major items listed in the 2015-2020 guidelines is the government’s unprecedented recommendation to significantly limit the amount of added sugar to just 10 percent of one’s daily caloric intake. Some studies estimate Americans consume up to 30 teaspoons of sugar every day. ”

Anyway the meat [!] of the report is her : )


Interesting reading. The big advantage of looking at the US is generally they are ahead of us in the ills that affect our society. And then we can look at their medical system as a warning to us for another future ill if we are not careful.

Incidentally ” If this study is accurate then it would prevent 274,000-309,000 cases of obesity-related type 2 diabetes over the following two decades.” or 15,000 a year which on a population of 60m is not huge. Should we not be more drastic and add a tax on sugars in drinks ? And large calorie figures on all alcoholic drinks?. And throw people in the slammer for being drunk?

” I was told they don’t have bail there, so I was kept in a police station for a whole bloody week until my trial, where I was fined roughly 10k in Swedish money (Kroner), which roughly amounts £1,500!
What a rip off and totally disproportinate fine. I’ve been arrested for drunk and disorderly back at home before, but fined 80 quid, but 1500?? Is there a way to get done by the UK courts instead?”

I agree that we need to look at all sugar in our diet, but sometimes it is helpful to look at individual components such as soft drinks. I had a friend who was frequently drinking almost two litres of fruit juice a day until I pointed out the sugar content.

I have been looking at the edibles that I was given at Christmas and I think I should resist the temptation to polish them off in a hurry. One item is an M&S ‘Snowflake’ cake, which is a heavy fruit cake coated in a thick layer of icing. I cut an 81g slice this evening and 32g of this was icing – that’s about 40% sugar. According to the packet, the cake contains 54.6g sugar per 100g.

You could give the icing to the birds as a treat.

Considering the cake is packed with sultanas, raisins, currants, cherries, marzipan and the amount of icing, 54.6g per 100g of sugar seems a bit on the low side.

I checked on the M&S website but they don’t give a breakdown of ingredients. Sometimes I look at nutritional info and do wonder how they arrive at their figures.

I have put some icing in the garden but I’m not sure if it’s good for birds. If it is still there this evening I will get rid of it because sugars promote rapid growth of bacteria when they get wet.

My mother rarely iced Christmas cakes and I never have. I prefer to make Dundee cakes, so there is a bit of decoration but no sugar.

Jams often contain a very high fruit content but the nutritional information shows a lot of sugar. The reason for the confusion is that cooking removes a lot of the water that was present in the fruit.

Perhaps we need to consider science as a cure for some obesity. This extract from an article 8th January at the web-site Ars Technica:

” ‘The freeze-dried poop method’ might not sound like a weight-loss strategy that would catch on, but—as some researchers are now testing—it may be an effective way to slim down.
In a randomized, controlled clinical trial starting this year, researchers will test out such a fecal formula for the treatment of obesity. They’ll also try to glean critical details about the human microbiome and its role in our health and metabolism. The trial, led by Elaine Yu, an assistant professor and clinical researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, will involve taking fecal samples from lean, healthy donors then freeze-drying the stool, putting a gram or two into capsules, and giving them to 20 obese patients.
Such poop-packed pills, which are designed to replace a person’s intestinal microbes with those from a donor via their feces, have proven effective at treating tenacious gut infections. This has led researchers to ponder whether the transplants could remedy other health problems, including obesity and metabolic disorders. A few animal studies and some anecdotal data in humans suggests the answer is yes—and Yu hopes to get a final answer with the upcoming trial.”

I have to say I actually do believe that gut culture IS highly important and I have great faith that there willbe significant discoveries and benefits.

Oh ye gods censorship at a fundamental level!
fae·ces in English the one starred was the US spelling for excrement

I’ve removed it from our automatic profanity filter. Thanks

Diesel man you are on a roll!
I like it. I like it, but not poo
No science cannot fix it. Cutting down eating can fix it
I watched something about the poo pills and although it was pretty convincing the threat of such should be enough to help anyone cut down. On food, not poo? Obviously we need to continue with the normal cycle of events

Some people are obese( fat) because of their make-up and will need help. I suggest this is one occasion where marketing should put their deceitful skills to good use. Poopill is not appealing to me. (nor is crapsule).

For many, as DK suggests, the answer is not a remedial treatment but initial diet control – just eat better and less. The Americans, as one of the greediest nations in the world, might look harder at this. Perhaps tax people (other than the medically obese) by weight (I jest 🙂 )

All the research I been looking at suggest that to be fat you have to over eat. In other words one eats more than one moves.
To say or blame your make up is unfounded unless in a tiny % of people
All the examples many researchers examined simple ate more and often much more than their thinner counterparts although they swore they ate normally. When compared the normal and the heavy ate very very different amounts of food
What the poo pills did show was that they could help in all sorts of ways we cannot go into here as this could be an easy subject to write the words in ones mind and there have been genuine positive results using poo pills but I fear they will become the latest in a line along with removing sugar from pop of fix it quick Jack solutions when in fact we can eat less and we can drink water neither of which I hasten to add I am very good at either but I try and it is working.
It went on in about 6 months and its like its going to be 6 years to get it off but the scales are going the right way slowly but slowly

The underlying point is very likely that the bug flora in your gut require a good diet anyway so you have a diversity. I have no doubt that water and less carbohydrates will be very effective in aiding weight loss.

In some quite difficult research it has been identified that isolated peoples have a wider diversity of gut flora than is common in the West.

Therefore I think it would be foolish to think just changing gut flora will solve all the problems of obesity but it may certainly help people to get a more efficient processing gut. The Wikipedia article is very useful:

More science outlining why sugar is bad

Has some very useful world data and then a simple trial showing that for kids replacing sugary junk food with non-sugary junk food made a considerable difference to health.

Food nutrition labels contain a lot of useful information, but not everyone pays attention. What if there were a warning label alerting consumers that the food contained ingredients deemed to be unhealthy? Would that make a difference?

Researchers supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Healthy Eating Research Program conducted a study to find out. In particular, they tested warning labels about added sugars, since some states and municipalities are considering laws requiring warning labels on sugar-sweetened abstract beverages (SSB).

The study tested whether parents would change their purchase habits if the product contained a warning label. It also tested the wording of potential labels to determine which was most effective.
Warning labels

The four labels, which are similar, contained the following wording:

Safety Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar[s] contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay
Safety Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar[s] contributes to weight gain, diabetes, and tooth decay
Safety Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar[s] contributes to preventable diseases like obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay
Safety Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar[s] contributes to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay

To test the labels, hundreds of parents were asked to shop for beverages. Some beverages had no warning label, some only listed the calories, and the rest contained one of the four warning labels.

The researchers say the warning labels proved effective.

“Significantly fewer parents chose an SSB for their child in the warning label condition (40%) versus the no label (60%) and calorie label conditions (53%),” the authors write. “Parents in the warning label condition also chose significantly fewer SSB coupons, believed that SSBs were less healthy for their child, and were less likely to intend to purchase SSBs.”

An interesting review of an artificial sugar being passed for use but open to comments until February 1st. You may be heartened by the details considered and interested in what they want to put it into. I suggest only a read for the geeky.