Supermarket Yogurt May Contain More Sugar Than You Think

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Children's yoghurts are packed with sugar, experts have found, warning that manufacturers and retailers need to do more to tackle the problem.

They found fewer than one in 10 of all products (9%) and only 2% of children's yoghurts were classed as low in sugar, and contained the level required to carry a green "traffic light" nutritional label which is considered a healthy choice.

The researchers note that yoghurt is an important source of nutrients including calcium, protein and vitamin B12, and is linked to digestive benefits.

Researchers at the School of Food Science and Nutrition in the University of Leeds looked at nearly 900 yoghurts and yoghurt products, including many which are household favourites in Ireland.

"While yogurt may be less of a concern than soft drinks and fruit juices, the chief sources of free sugars in both children and adults" diets, what is worrisome is that yogurt, as a perceived "healthy food' may be an unrecognised source of free/added sugars in the diet", said J. Bernadette Moore from the varsity.

The study also warned of the "health halo" effect that leads consumers to automatically assume that organic products are healthier, despite this category of yogurt being the most sugary.

Public Health England (PHE) has challenged the food industry to reduce the sugar content of yoghurts and fromage frais, along with other products, by 20 per cent by 2020.

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Writing in the journal BMJ Open, Moore and colleagues describe how they looked at nutritional data for 898 products by searching the online grocery websites of five major United Kingdom supermarkets.

Dietary guidelines recommend low-fat and low-sugar dairy products.

Yogurts marked as "desserts" contained the most sugar, with an average of 16.4 grams per 100 grams. However natural or Greek yoghurt hit the mark, with a median of 5g of sugar per 100g.

Picking the organic yoghurt in the fancy packaging over the supermarket basics variety may feel good but it is unlikely to help your waistline.

Dr Barbara Fielding, study co-author from the University of Surrey, said: "In the United Kingdom, on average, children eat more yoghurt than adults, with children under three years old eating the most".

Caroline Cerny of the Obesity Health Alliance stressed that overconsumption of sugar is one of the factors driving the high rates of obesity in the United Kingdom, but acknowledged that sugar levels in yoghurts are falling.

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