A study has revealed commercially available yogurt may not be quite as healthy as we first thought. Yogurts, particularly those marketed towards children have been found to contain high levels of sugar.
The study looked at almost 900 yogurt products available in Britain in autumn 2016, discovering many had more than 10g per 100g of sugar. Twice the level considered appropriate for a food to be labeled ‘low sugar’.
Britain tries to tackle high sugar food products
Britain has been trying to reduce the amount of sugar in foods as one tactic to combat rising obesity in the country. In 2016 Public Health England (PHE) challenged the food industry to cut the sugar in various food products by 5% in the first year and 20% by 2020.
In May this year, PHE admitted that most categories failed to meet the targets. Although yogurt, cereals, and sweets did manage to reduce overall sugar levels by 5%.
Despite yogurt being among the products to successfully reduce sugar levels, experts say there is still a big problem in yogurts targeted to kids. “If we are talking about children’s products, so 10.8 [g of sugar per 100g], then 5% less we are talking 10.2g/100g … there is definite room for the industry to do more, and I know that they are doing it, but it is not enough,” said Dr. Bernadette Moore, first author of the research from the University of Leeds.
Yogurt less healthy choice than assumed
High sugar levels in yogurt are particularly problematic due to their reputation as a healthy food. Yogurt is a good source of nutrients and has been linked to aiding digestion.
But yogurts with high amounts of added sugar can contribute to tooth decay and other health problems. Moore suggests that using a natural yogurt sweetened with fresh fruit or low-sugar cereal is a good alternative to highly processed sugary flavored yogurts.
She also adds that if the choice came down to a Snickers bar or a tub of yogurt, the yogurt still wins, despite the sugar levels. The team completed the research into the yogurt sugar levels by gathering nutritional data from supermarket websites.
898 products were sorted into categories including desserts, organic yogurt, natural or Greek yogurt, dairy alternatives and yogurts aimed at children, including fromage frais. The results show that sugar levels far exceeded the ‘low sugar’ benchmark.
Not all sugars are created equally
Children's yogurts had an average of 10.8g/100g. Only 2% of the children's products surveyed would have earned a ‘green tick’ which indicates its official low sugar level.
It is important to note, the publicly available nutritional content does not differentiate between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Moore suggests that 5% per 100g can be attributed to lactose a naturally occurring sugar and any number above that can be assumed to be an additive. The research was published in the BMJ Open Journal.