PARENTS are being warned that many so-called healthy fruit drinks and smoothies are sugar timebombs that are adding to weight problems in children and adolescents.
A shocking survey reveals the bitter truth about the amount of sugar cubes in the drinks which are increasingly the choice of health-conscious families.
But far from being a virtuous choice, a 200ml serving of a popular juice drink contained as much sugar as the equivalent serving of well-known fizzy soft beverages such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi or 7UP, according to the All-Ireland body Safefood.
For instance, Capri Sun Apple and Blackcurrant Juice Drink contains 20g of sugar in a 200ml serving. The same glass of Coca Cola has 21.2g sugar while the content for Pepsi is 21.2g sugar and for 7UP 22.4g.
And some popular supermarket brands of cordials and diluted drinks were found to contain even higher sugar levels, with as much as five cubes of sugar in a small glass.
Safefood's Director of Human Health and Nutrition Dr Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan said many people were unaware of the high sugar content of juice drinks.
"Many parents may be under the impression that juice drinks that mention the term 'fruit' are a healthier alternative for their children than fizzy drinks," she said.
Naturally occurring sugar in fruit juice is known as fructose but any kind of sugar contains significant calories and has no nutritional value beyond generating energy. Fruits are nutritionally rich whereas fizzy drinks have empty calories.
Obesity expert Dr Donal O'Shea said that people needed to stop treating sugary drinks as treats.
"There is now clear evidence that links the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks to overweight and obesity among children and adolescents," he said.
"There is evidence that reducing their intake will help your child become a healthier weight. 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 everyday. Milk or water are best for our children".
He pointed out that nearly one in every two Irish children is consuming soft drinks at least once or day or more and one in three has a cordial at meal times.
"Reducing a child's intake of these drinks and replacing them with water or milk is a practical step," he advised.
More information is available at www.safefood.eu