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Ask the dentist: Beware that flavoured yoghurts, many aimed at kids, are high in sugar

Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast, warns that aside from plain yoghurts, most yoghurt products contain alarmingly high amounts of sugar

Fromage frais and other yoghurt products aimed specifically at children can contain more than half a child's recommended daily sugar intake
Lucy Stock

JUST when you thought it was safe to choose from the yoghurt aisle… turns out that innocent-looking yoghurts could actually pack a whopper of a sugary bite.

A comprehensive survey of ingredients in yoghurts (other than unflavoured, ie natural yoghurts) has highlighted high sugar levels in many, particularly organic yoghurts and those marketed towards children. Only two of 101 children's yoghurt 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.

The NHS recommends that four to six-year-olds should have no more than 19 grams of sugar a day. Scientists from the Universities of Leeds and Surrey analysed the product information for 921 yoghurts available in major UK supermarkets. Their study found that across nearly all categories of yoghurt products – the exceptions being natural, Greek and ‘Greek-style' yoghurts – 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.

Apart from products in the dessert category, organic yoghurts were found to have the highest average sugar content – roughly 13.1 grams 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 Leeds, said: “While there is good evidence that yoghurt 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. Many of the products suggested for children's lunch boxes were high-sugar dessert yoghurts, rather than lower sugar options.”

Dr Moore added: “Our study highlights the challenges and mixed messages that come from the marketing and packaging of yoghurt products.”

Study co-author Dr Barbara Fielding of the University of Surrey said: “Diets high in added sugars are now unequivocally linked to obesity and dental problems. In the UK, on average, children eat more yoghurt than adults, with children under three years old eating the most. It can be a great source of protein, calcium, and vitamin B12.”

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