Sugar-sweetened drinks like soft drinks, flavoured mineral waters, fortified waters, energy and electrolyte drinks, fruit and vegetable drinks (that have added sugar), and cordials—are addictive and Aussie teens can’t seem to get enough of them!
Cancer Council SA research shows one in three teens are consuming three or more sugar sweetened drinks per week! This equates to a whopping 6.2 kg of sugar per year—no wonder they are having a negative impact on health in the short and long term.
What’s the problem?
Evidence shows that regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain, which is cause for concern as we know that overweight and obese children are more likely to stay above a healthy weight into adulthood.
Carrying excess weight, especially around the abdomen, increases your risk of developing certain types of cancer including bowel, post-menopausal breast cancer, kidney, liver, pancreas, oesophagus and endometrium cancer, as well as many other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
We also know that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages from a young age can enhance preferences for sweet food and drinks and displace more nutritious options.
The World Health Organisation recommends limiting free sugars—like those found in sugary drinks—to 6-12 teaspoons a day. With one 600 ml bottle of soft drink containing up to 16 teaspoons of sugar, it’s easy to see how sugary drinks can push sugar intake to above this recommendation. Intakes of this level are putting our teenagers are at risk of chronic disease such as cancer later in life.
So how much sugar are you drinking?
- 1100 mL slushy = 25 tsp sugar
- 600 mL chocolate milk = 18 tsp sugar
- 600 mL cola = 16 tsp sugar
- 500 mL energy drink = 13 tsp sugar
- 600 mL sports drink = 9 tsp sugar
- 250 mL 100 per cent fruit juice = 6 tsp sugar
- 500 mL vitamin water = 5.5 tsp sugar
- 200 mL cordial = 5 tsp sugar
Cancer Council SA recommendation
Avoid or limit sugar-sweetened drinks and instead choose water or reduced-fat milk.
Water is the best drink for your body. It is essentially free from the tap, contains no kilojoules and is the best fluid for hydration.
To help you drink more water and add variety:
- add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice
- pop ice cubes made from fruit into your glass of water
- keep a glass of water handy on your desk, or a bottle of water in your bag or backpack
If you enjoy a little fizz in your drink, try:
- soda water or plain mineral water with fresh lemon or lime juice
- soda water with cut up slices of fruit—like oranges and strawberries, or vegetables—like cucumber and/or mint leaves
What about fruit juice?
The key difference between sugary drinks and fruit juice is that fruit juice can provide valuable nutrients, but most types naturally contain a similar amount of sugar and kilojoules to soft drinks. A piece of fresh fruit is a better alternative to a glass of juice; it contains more fibre and fewer kilojoules.
If you do choose to drink fruit juice:
- choose 100 per cent fruit juice (avoid sweetened varieties)
- limit to 125 ml, or half a glass per day
- choose small serving sizes from juice bars
- try diluting juice with water or ice
What about flavoured milk?
Milk provides important nutrients like protein and calcium. Dairy foods are a core component of a healthy diet and the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommended daily consumption of milk, particularly reduced-fat varieties for adults and children above the age of two.
Flavoured milks can contain a lot of added sugars and therefore kilojoules. Plain, reduced-fat varieties are the better choice. If you choose to drink flavoured milk, select the smaller sized drinks (375 ml or less) with no added sugar.
Find out more about the impact of sugar-sweetened drinks and ways to reduce your intake by accessing our downloadable resource here.