/ 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