BMJ Study on Sugar Content of Yogurts: Dairy UK Response

Maricruz Casares
Setiembre 21, 2018

The study, published today in BMJ Open, found that across all categories of yogurt products the average sugar levels were well above the five grams of sugar per 100 grams threshold required to be classed "low sugar" and carry a green "traffic light" nutritional label in the UK.

Researchers said: "Not all yoghurts are as healthy as perhaps consumers perceive them, and reformulation for the reduction of free sugars is warranted".

United Kingdom and U.S. dietary guidelines recommend low fat and low sugar dairy products, and the researchers wanted to assess how far yogurt products, particularly those marketed to children, meet these guidelines.

Fewer than one in 10 (9pc) qualified as low sugar, nearly none of which were in the children's category.

Merely 9 percent did not exceed the recommended sugar limits, while for children's yogurts the figure was only 2%.

So unless it's using artificial sweeteners, if your yogurt tastes sweet, it's probably because there's sugar in it. "It can be a great source of protein, calcium, and vitamin B12", she said.

The paper noted that many adults and children might eat yoghurt thinking it's a health food, when it could be an "unrecognised source" of added sugar. The World Health Organisation recommends capping your daily added sugar at about 25g for maximum benefits to your health and your teeth. In these categories, average sugars ranged from 10.8g per 100g in children's products to 13.1g per 100g in organic products. This compares with an average of 5g /100 g for natural/Greek yogurts.

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Under current NHS guidelines four to six-year-olds should have no more than 19 grams of sugar a day.

Study co-author Dr Barbara Fielding, from the University of Surrey, said: 'Diets high in added sugars are now unequivocally linked to obesity and dental problems.

Organic yogurts were found to have the highest average sugar content - with roughly 13.1 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

This research was undertaken shortly after the launch of the sugar-reduction programme. But most of the sugar in high-sugar yogurts is free sugar, even for many fruit yogurts. But, with the exception of natural/Greek yogurts, the average sugar content of products in all the categories was well above the low sugar threshold. And experts say those sugars can add up quickly.

The team sorted the products into eight groups including desserts, organic yoghurt, natural or Greek yoghurt, dairy alternatives and yoghurts aimed at children, including fromage frais.

We know that working out the sugar content of food can be confusing because government sugar recommendations for a healthy diet only refer to "free" (also called "added") sugars, and food labels don't distinguish between free and total sugars.

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