Revealed: Flavoured milk’s sickly sweet secret
FLAVOURED milk drinkers are consuming so much sugar from just one container they may as well be eating an entire bag of lollies, new analysis has revealed.
The sugar content of some of Australia's favourite flavoured milks is so high a single 600-750ml drink can contain one and a half times the total amount the World Health Organisation recommends for a day.
Having examined the added sugar content of the leading brands available in Victoria, the Cancer Council's LiveLighter campaign manager Alison McAleese said most are sickly sweet and contain almost the same amount as a regular can of Coke.
"Because they are milk, they sound like a healthy option, but people may not realise they are getting an entire day's worth of added sugar in one drink, and that makes them more similar to a very big dessert than a morning coffee," Ms McAleese said.
"One reason contributing to that is the portion sizes - they are just huge, and most people drink them in one go."
A survey of 94 popular chilled flavoured dairy milks available in Victoria and Western Australia found most were leaving the WHO's recommendation of no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day in their wake.
Leading the sweet stakes is Ice Break Regular Strength Iced Coffee 750ml, which contains 9.2 teaspoons of added sugar - the equivalent of eating 22 red frog lollies.
Other brands including Brownes, Oak, Dare and Big M all have between 7.4 and 8.5 teaspoons per carton.
While plain milk is already made up of 4-5 per cent naturally occurring sugars, such as lactose, Ms McAleese said flavoured drink manufacturers are doubling the sweetness without having to acknowledge the added sugar on their labels.
"You get some benefit from the milk, so you are at least getting some nutrition. But people just don't realise how much added sugar is included," she said.
"Plain milk is a healthy option and, if you can make a flavoured milk at home, you are going to be a lot better off.
"Using flavours like cinnamon and vanilla bean are a much better option than sugar."
Former flavoured milk enthusiast Liam O'Shea, 20, was downing about two sugar-packed drinks a day to fit in with his work schedule last year, but has reformed his habits in the wake of the findings.
"The taste (of flavoured milk) is pretty good," he said.
"But I had to get up pretty early and didn't have time to drop into a cafe so the real pull for me was the caffeine in the iced coffee. Looking at the sugar content and seeing how much was in there, it seems I'm getting a sugar rush more than anything.
"Because milk comes from an animal and is a natural thing, it's not really made in a factory like soft drinks, so I had a false sense of security with them and expected a bit more health inside the drink."
But Dairy Australia nutritional scientist Dr Rivkeh Haryono said examining sugar content alone failed to consider important nutritional aspects of the overall healthiness of a product.
"Unlike fizzy sweet soft drinks, which have zero nutritional value, flavoured milk contains the same combination of essential nutrients as plain milk," Dr Haryono said.
"Research shows children who drink flavoured milk, as opposed to those who don't, have higher intakes of bone-building nutrients like calcium and lower intakes of fizzy soft drinks, which are linked to childhood obesity."