Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Many fruit drinks contain more sugar and calories than Coca-Cola, experts have found. Popular drinks are packed with hidden sugar and kilojoules, an investigation by The Sunday Mail found. And compared with freshly prepared fruit and vegetables they contain less fibre and fewer nutrients.

Dietician Kate Diprima said many people were not aware of the high kilojoule count in fruit drinks. "Many consumers choosing these are watching their weight and therefore will be surprised that the calories are comparable to cordial and soft drink," she said. Ms Diprima was asked by The Sunday Mail to analyse seven popular drinks, including a "blueberry blast"-flavoured Boost juice, Ribena blackcurrant fruit drink, Pop Tops orange drink, V8 Fruit & Veg Juice, Berri Juice It Up (pineapple, mango, banana and spirulina) and a McDonald's chocolate thick shake. "All the drinks analysed were incredibly sweet and concentrated, which only encourages a very sweet tooth," she said.

Coke was found to contain the fewest calories and the McDonald's chocolate shake the most. The orange-flavoured Pop Top, popular for children's lunch boxes, was not so popular with Ms Diprima. "It has no health benefits at all -- only five per cent juice or 12.5ml of orange juice. The only positive over the cola is that it is caffeine-free, therefore non-addictive," she said. "Poppers and pop-top juices should be limited to party foods, not lunchboxes."

Ribena, which is billed as containing real fruit juice and free of artificial sweeteners, contains 14.1g of sugar per 100ml. This makes it more sugary than cola. Coca-Cola, which is criticised for its lack of nutritional value, contains 10.6g of sugar per 100ml or 39.8g per can. The Boost blueberry blast fruit smoothie contains a whopping 72 calories per 100ml, or 468 calories in a regular serve -- quarter of an adult's recommended daily intake.

Diprima warned sugary drinks could cause bowel irritations, weight gain and dehydration. Derek Lewis, of the Australian Dental Association, said the drinks could also lead to dental problems. "You end up with either decay from the sugar in the drink or this erosion problem from the acid in the drink. In combination, high sugar and high acid is devastating," he said. "The profession is concerned about dental erosion, we call it the silent epidemic, particularly here in southeast Queensland, where acidic drinks, including citrus juices, dissolve teeth over time.

Dr Lewis advised parents to limit children's consumption of juice or fruit drinks. "It really doesn't matter what the source of the acid or the sugar is, whether it's a natural product or an artificial soft drink, they still have the same effect."

Queensland University of Technology Institute of Health and Biomedical researcher, Susan Ash, said the "high density" drinks could lead to child obesity. "The children can be getting quite significant amounts of unnecessary energy from the drinks," she said. "You only need to be consuming a small amount above your energy needs for your weight to go up." Ms Ash said the sugar from soft drink was metabolised the same way as sugar from juice. "It terms of weight control, it doesn't matter what the type of sugar, it's still going to give you that same amount of energy when it's broken down in the body," she said. "People don't go to a tap or bubbler any more to get a drink. "It has to be somehow processed into a flavoured beverage -- and it's hard to get a drink less than 600ml."


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