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woman comparing soft drink bottles in supermarket
11 June 2019

Cut back on liquid sugars

Study finds liquid sugars more harmful than sugars in solid foods.

A New Zealand study has found sugar in drinks is more harmful than sugar in solid food.

The study, published in the Obesity journal in May, reviewed previous epidemiological and clinical research. It concluded consuming liquid sugars, such as those found in soft drinks, increased the risk of metabolic syndrome – a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes – compared with sugar from solid foods.

The study also looked at whether 100% fruit juice carried a greater risk than whole fruit. Lead author Dr Gerhard Sundborn said the results were mixed regarding fruit juice (some studies reported higher risk, others decreased risk).

“Fruit juice appears to carry less risk than soft drink for the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome, but fruit juice is less satiating than whole fruits and has less fibre, so whole fruits are preferred,” he said.

Dr Sundborn said it’s time the government considered a tax on sugary drinks. Similar taxes have been introduced in the UK and Mexico. “Our research showed that Kiwis’ consumption of sugary drinks increased from 2002 to 2016. Although we’re drinking less soft drinks, New Zealanders are drinking more juice, sports drinks and energy drinks,” he said.

Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) spokesperson Professor Boyd Swinburn said the organisation supports a tax on sugary drinks.

“New Zealand adults and children are far exceeding sugar recommendations. The 2002 National Children’s Nutrition Survey found boys were consuming on average 17 teaspoons of sugar per day, and girls 15 teaspoons. About a quarter was from sugary beverages,” Professor Swinburn said.

Consumer NZ is a member of the HCA.

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