How much sugar is there in…

Alpro 1+ soya milk? This is affectionately known in our house as “giraffe milk”, not because it comes from giraffes but because, even though we should know better, we are still complete suckers for a good branding campaign (and there is a cute cartoon giraffe on the front of the box). How is Alpro 1+ (designed for children over the age of 1 year) different from regular soya milk?

Alpro 1+

Alpro wholebean soya milk contains 32 calories per 100ml, while 1+ contains 62 calories per 100ml. On the face of it this seems like a good thing. Getting calories into my rather fussy daughter has been a bit of a challenge. Because she eats like a sparrow (and I am constantly amazed at how she manages to survive, let alone run, climb, dance and bounce…), calorie-dense foods seem like a good idea. But where do the extra calories come from? As it turns out (from a little bit of label-reading), they come from the addition of two things: fructose-glucose syrup and vegetable oil.

So I could just give her normal milk and a sugar cube, and add a drop of sunflower oil to her dinner, and it would have about the same net result. Alpro 1+ contains 2.9g of sugar and 2.3g of fat per 100ml, as compared to 0.1g and 1.8g respectively in wholebean milk. Wholebean milk also contains more actual beans: 6.5% as compared to 5% in 1+.

Then again, 1+ does contain added calcium, iron, and vitamins C, B1 and E, alongside the vitamins D2, B2 (riboflavin) and B12 that the wholebean variety also contains. This is a good thing, perhaps only because young children who drink too much milk (of any variety) after weaning are at risk of becoming iron deficient. Children should ideally be getting the nutrients they need, including iron, from food, and if they are taking in a substantial proportion of their daily calorie requirement in the form of milk (or sugars, oils or hard fats, which are all empty calories) then they are not getting the bulk of food they need for adequate nutrient provision.

Anyway back to the sugar. Last weekend the Saturday Guardian included a special report on sugar consumption and health, hot on the heels of an article in the British Medical Journal looking at fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies (Muraki et al, August 2013).

The Guardian article included images of commonly consumed foods, alongside the amounts of sugar they contain.  One sugar cube contains 4.2g. One 250g Pizza Express margherita contains 11.2g. One Tesco, low-fat, strawberry yoghurt contains 20.2g (that’s about five sugar cubes!) and one can of Sprite contains 21.8g.

New guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) apparently state that no more than 10% of our total calories should come from sugar (a reduction of 1% from current guidelines). Since 100g of sugar contains 387 calories, for someone on a 2000 calorie per day diet this equates to about 52g of sugar (or about 13 sugar cubes – a phenomenal amount, IMO) per day. According to the Guardian article by Sarah Boseley, we are eating more than that: 12.3% of calories for adults, 14.6% for children aged 4-10 and 15.3% for young people aged 11-18. And that’s just added sugar – it doesn’t include the naturally occurring sugars in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose).

Of course we shouldn’t really be eating added sugar, which is addictive, in our food at all. These limits are to encourage industry reductions in the amounts found in processed and packaged foodstuffs. They are fairly meaningless to most people (and a bit like advising a smoker to cut down from 11 cigarettes per day to ten). If I eat a doughnut I have no idea how many grams of sugar that contains, or what percentage (is it ten or is it eleven?) of my total caloric intake for the day it constitutes. I just know that I shouldn’t eat doughnuts. That’s a simpler message (Don’t Eat Doughnuts!), and having internalised it, I might still eat the occasional doughnut, but much fewer than I would have done otherwise.

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