See sugary drinks as ‘threats not treats’, warns obesity specialist

Sugar-sweetened drinks should be seen as “threats, not treats”, a specialist on obesity warned as Safefood alerted parents that fruit drinks are often as high in sugar as fizzy varieties.

“There is now clear evidence that links the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks to overweight and obesity among children and adolescents,” said Prof Donal O’Shea, an obesity specialist with the HSE.

“As parents we tend to ignore the contribution of liquids to our kids’ daily calorie intake. We need to start viewing these drinks as ‘threats not treats’ and certainly not something to be had every day,” he said.

Prof O’Shea said water and milk are the best drinks to give children.

Safefood has published results of a label survey into the sugar levels of a wide selection of popular drinks.

It shows that a serving of Capri Sun Apple and Blackcurrant Juice Drink contains almost as much sugar as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or 7UP.

Some popular super-market brands of cordials and dilutes were found to contain even higher sugar levels, with as much as five cubes of sugar in a small glass.

Dr Cliodhna Foley- Nolan, Safefood’s director of human health and nutrition, said children were regular consumers of fizzy and juice drinks.

“Our most recent survey of parents found that 45% of children are drinking soft drinks at least once a day or more,” she said.

The same survey found that 30% drank cordials at mealtimes.

Dr Foley-Nolan said parents asked Safefood to show how much sugar was in the drinks and that was why they converted the measurements into cubes.

Safefood’s website ( offers parents a drinks’ guide for children.

Dr Foley-Nolan, who was surprised by some of the findings, said children should only be given 100mls of juice per day — about a third of a regular soft drink can.

She said there was evidence that reducing a child’s intake of sweetened drinks will help them to achieve a healthier weight.

“We are now showing parents exactly what is on the label in a graphically digestible way.”

The Beverage Council of Ireland, which represents the soft drinks, fruit juice and bottled water sectors, said of the 40% of people who consumed sugar sweetened drinks, such products only contributed 3.6% to the daily calorific intake.

It said the rates of obesity rose steadily from 14% in 1996 to 23% in 2007. However, it said that between 2000 and 2011, sales of sugar sweetened drinks fell by 19%.


Soft Drinks

- Lucozade: 34.4g – 7 cubes.
- Club Orange: 26g – 5 cubes.
- Fanta Orange: 24.8g – 5 cubes.
- 7Up: 22.4g – 4 cubes.
- Coca Cola: 21.2g – 4 cubes.

Regular squashes or cordials

- Ribena (strawberry or blackcurrant): 21g – 4 cubes.
- Miwadi Orange: 4.5g – 1 cube.
- Dunnes Stores (orange squash): 1.6g. – zero

Ready to drink fruit juice drinks

- Amigo (orange juice drink): 23.2g – 5 cubes.
- Ribena (blackcurrant): 21g – 4 cubes.
- Capri Sun (apple and blackcurrant juice drink) : 20g – 4 cubes.

Unsweetened fruit juices

- Jaffa Gold Orange Juice: 22.4g – 4 cubes.
- Squeez Orange (from concentrate): 18.2g – 4 cubes.
- Innocent Orange with Bits (not from concentrate): 16.4g – 3 cubes.


- Juice Press (raspberry and blueberry): 30.4g – 6 cubes.
- Naked (mango juice):23.8g – 5 cubes.
- Innocent (mango and passion fruit): 21.8g – 4 cubes.
- Tesco (strawberry and banana): 19.2g – 4 cubes.


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