‘Healthy’ children’s yogurts are actually high in sugar, study finds

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A study has found that yogurts - in particularly organic products and those market at children – contain high levels of sugar. 

Researchers from the Universities of Leeds and Surrey examined  ingredients in 921 yogurts available in major UK supermarkets.

Children's yogurts are high in sugar, a study has found. Picture: Pixabay

Children's yogurts are high in sugar, a study has found. Picture: Pixabay

They found that only two per cent of children's yogurts could be classified as low in sugar. 

Scientists found that the majority of yogurts also contain more than half of a child's recommended daily maximum in take of sugar. 

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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.

The only exception was with natural, Greek and ‘Greek-style’ yogurts. 

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

A standard sugar cube weighs roughly four grams – equivalent to a level teaspoon of granulated sugar.

Lead author Dr Bernadette Moore, from the School of Food Science and Nutrition at University of Leeds, said: 'While there is good evidence that yogurt can be beneficial to health, products on the market vary widely in nutrient content.

‘Items labelled ‘organic’ are often thought of as the ‘healthiest’ option, but they may be an unrecognised source of added sugars in many people’s diet.

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‘Many of the products that were suggested for children’s lunchboxes were high sugar dessert yogurts, rather than lower sugar options.

‘Retailers could play a positive role in promoting health by establishing boundaries for lunchbox recommendations and clearly labelling the amount of added sugar.’ 

Dr Moore explained that while yogurts contained their own naturally-occurring sugar – called lactose or milk sugar –current UK labelling laws do not require the declaration of added sugars on nutrition labels. 

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

The researchers found that only two of 101 children’s yogurt and fromage frais products surveyed could be classified as low in sugar, with the majority having an average of 10.8 grams per 100 grams.

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.

‘An alarming 58% of women and 68% of men – along with one in three of UK children aged ten to eleven – were overweight or obese in 2015.

‘In the UK, on average, children eat more yogurt than adults, with children under three years old eating the most.

‘It can be a great source of protein, calcium, and vitamin B12.

‘However, we found that in many of the yogurt products marketed towards children, a single serving could contain close to half of a child’s recommended daily maximum sugar intake.’