Starbucks or Coke: What's Worse?

Some Starbucks coffee drinks contain up to three times the sugar in a can of Coke, British study says

Could going to Starbucks be worse than heading to a vending machine?

According to a new report from British advocacy group Action on Sugar, a Starbucks coffee drink usually contains more sugar than a can of Coke-sometimes up to three times as much.

In this study researchers recorded the nutritional contents of 131 hot drinks sold by several fast food companies in the UK, including McDonalds, Pret a Manger and Costa Coffee. The worst offenders, which took the two top spots for amount of sugar in a drink, were Starbucks grape and apple mulled drinks, which contained 25 and 22 teaspoons of sugar each in its venti, or 20-ounce, size. A can of Coke contains 9 grams of sugar.

Starbucks drinks earned 7 out of the 10 top spots for sugar content, which also included the grande, or 16-ounce, size of the mulled drinks, with 17 teaspoons for the apple flavor and 19 teaspoons for the grape. Starbucks' venti white chocolate mocha with whipped cream also entered in the top ten with 18 teaspoons, and the grande, or 16-ounce, size of the same drink with 15 teaspoons.

“This is yet again another example of scandalous amount of sugar added to our food and drink," Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and the Chair of Action on Sugar said in a press release. "No wonder we have the highest rates of obesity in Europe."

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the recommended daily amount of sugar for the average person is 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams, per day. This includes sugars in both fruits and added sugars, such as honey or powdered sugar. According to Harvard Medical School, sugary drinks can lead to consuming excess calories as they do not lessen hunger, which can increase the chance of obesity.

A 2013 study from University of California, San Francisco found a possible link between sugar consumption and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot adequately produce the hormone insulin. Insulin transports sugar from the bloodstream to the organs for use. Those with diabetes treat the disease by monitoring blood sugar and weight and possibly insulin injections.

Type 2 diabetes can also raise the chance of heart disease, and higher sugar consumption could also lead to overweight and obesity, according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

“These results highlight the need for more transparency on sugar content and compulsory labelling of sugar content," Nicola Close, Chief Executive of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said in the release. "Drinkers deserve to know how much sugar they are consuming.”

According to a Starbucks spokesperson, nutritional information about their drinks is online, and the company offers a "variety of lighter options, sugar-free syrups and sugar-free natural sweetener." The company plans on reducing the sugar contents of its drinks by 25 percent by the year 2020, according to a press release.

This study was funded and published by Action on Sugar. No conflicts of interest were declared.