British consumers are considerably misjudging how much sugar supposedly “healthy option drinks” contain, researchers from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, revealed in a new report. The investigators asked 2,005 individuals across the country to estimate how much sugar some popular drinks contained.

They found that, in general, people tend to slightly overestimate the sugar content of sodas (fizzy drinks), while seriously underestimating levels in milkshakes, smoothies, energy drinks and several fruit juices. In fact, most people underestimated a popular pomegranate juice’s content by 18 teaspoons of sugar.

The participants were also asked to estimate what their weekly liquid consumption was, and to provide details on what they drank. The researchers worked out that the average British person consumes, in non-alcoholic drinks, the equivalent of 659 grams of sugar each week, i.e. 3,144 calories (approximately 450 calories per day).


British women consume nearly one-quarter of their recommended daily calories in the form of non-alcoholic drinks (one-fifth for men).

Over the past 20 years, the consumption and availability of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodas (sugar carbonated drinks), fruit drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks have risen significantly. Consuming sugar-sweetened drinks in excess contributes to obesity, which raises the risk of developing diabetes type 2, hypertension, several types of cancer, stroke and heart disease.

24% of respondents said that when they were last on a diet, they had not taken into account their calorie consumption through drinks. Half of those said they consumed at least three sugary drinks each day, and did not adjust their overall calorie intake accordingly.

Professor Naveed Sattar, said:

“What you drink can be as damaging to the body as what you eat and there is no question that consuming too many sugar-sweetened drinks can greatly contribute to abdominal obesity and therefore increase your likelihood of developing health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

This analysis confirms that many people are perhaps not aware of the high calorie levels in many commonly consumed drinks. Some varieties of drinks such as pure fruit juices and smoothies which are perceived as “healthy” options are also very high in sugar. For many people struggling with their weight, reducing their intake of such drinks and replacing with water or diet drinks would be a sensible first target to help them lessen their calorie intake.

For some, this change might seem difficult or impossible as they admit to having a “sweet tooth.” However, it is now clear that our taste buds can be retrained over time to enjoy far less sugar in drinks (or no sugar at all). But people deserve support and encouragement to make these changes and the soft drinks industry also has a role to play here by providing drinks with less sugar or offering cheaper diet versions.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist