Fans of high street coffee chains may want to rethink their regular drinking habits after a new report released in the United Kingdom found that as many as one-third of hot beverages served in these establishments contain the same or more amounts of sugar than soft drinks.

Researchers from the health advocacy group Action on Sugar examined the sugar content of 131 popular flavored drinks offered in various coffee shops and fast food chains in the UK. These drinks included coffees, lattes, mochas, hot chocolates and fruit drinks.

They discovered that a third of these beverages had sugar levels that are equal to or even higher than those included in well-known soft drinks. One soda in can contains as much as 9 teaspoons of sugar, according to a spokesman for the advocacy group.

Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar, says that their findings show another example of the high amount of sugar often included in people's food and drink. He adds that this is why the UK continues to have the highest rates of obese people in the continent.

Sugar-Filled Drinks

Of the 131 beverages featured in the report, the hot mulled fruit served at Starbucks contains the most amount of sugar with 25 teaspoons' worth of sugar. This is more than three times beyond the recommended daily sugar intake for adults.

Other products from the popular coffee shop with high amounts of sugar include venti white chocolate mocha with whipped cream (18 teaspoons' worth of sugar) and its signature hot chocolate drink (15 teaspoons' worth of sugar).

The chai latte served at Costa Coffee has as much as 20 teaspoons of sugar for every serving, while the caramelatte available from Caffe Nero has 13 teaspoons of sugar.

In response to the report, Starbucks pointed out that it is already taking efforts to reduce the amount of added sugar in its beverages by as much as 25 percent.

A spokeswoman from the coffee company said that they also offer a number of "lighter options" and have displayed different nutritional information in their stores and online to help customers choose their drinks.

For its part, Costa Coffee asserted that it has already made significant steps to lessen the sugar content of its products.

Kerry Parkin, Costa Coffee's communications chief, said that they will set targets for sugar and salt reductions this April, which they expect to be met by 2020.

Actions on Sugar, however, stressed that coffee shops should lower the sugar content of their hot drinks immediately and improve the labels on their products. These companies should also refrain from offering their drinks in extra-large servings.

"These hot flavored drinks should be an occasional treat, not an 'everyday' drink," Kawther Hashem, a researcher for the group, says. "They are laden with an unbelievable amount of sugar and calories and are often accompanied by a high sugar and fat snack."

Hashem says that they advise consumers to choose a plain hot drink or one in the smallest serving size available with minimal amounts of syrup that is preferably sugar-free.

Photo: Kenny Louie | Flickr 

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