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Bournvita Row: How Much Sugar Is Too Much Sugar In Your 'Health' Drink?

We reached out to experts to understand what health impact do these products have on children.

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How much sugar do popular brands of health drinks contain? The short answer is 9.5-37 gm per 100 gm of the product.

That's a lot. That's also over the permissible levels prescribed by the World Health OrganiSation. And that's still not the real amount of sugar in these drinks – besides sugar, these drinks also contain fructose, corn syrup, etc, which are just fancy names for sugar again.

But why are we telling you this?

On 1 April this year, influencer Revant Himatsingka (@foodpharmer on social media) posted a video reviewing 'health drink' Cadbury Bournvita, where he flagged the high content of sugar in the product.

Just two weeks later, he had to take down the video and apologise for 'defaming' the product after Mondelez India sent him a legal notice. 

Following this incident, a lot of questions have been raised about pre-packaged products targeted at kids.

FIT reached out to experts to understand why high sugar consumption can be harmful, why misleading advertisements are problematic, and what health impact these products have.

Bournvita Row: How Much Sugar Is Too Much Sugar In Your 'Health' Drink?

  1. 1. Why Is Sugar a Cause of Concern?

    Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief Nutritionist, Apollo Hospitals, explains that while in general sugar intake in a high amount is harmful to health, when it comes to these packaged ‘health drinks’ specifically, it’s not the sugar levels alone that are concerning.

    These products also have:

    • Preservatives

    • Colouring agents

    • Flavouring agents such as cocoa

    • Saturated fats

    • Palmolein oil 

    • Other ultra processed ingredients

    For any pre-packaged beverage, these ingredients are necessary to provide the stability, structure, and texture you want the product to have.

    Dr Arun Gupta, Nutritionist and Convenor of the Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest-India, also mentions that with ultra-processed foods, the problem is that the actual ingredient loses all its nutritional value. 

    And..

    “This is very bad for gut health. Gut health not only determines your digestive health but also brain development and immunity for children.”
    Dr Priyanka Rohatgi

    Dr Rohatgi adds that the problem is also that children these days are exposed to sugar in various forms, be it in terms of chocolate/jam spreads, donuts, muffins, a hundred different types of sweets, or desserts.

    Another added factor is the increased culture of consuming ultra-processed pre-packaged foods and ordering out.

    All this combined exceeds the permissible sugar intake limits  – which is a 2-4 teaspoons or less than 10 percent of your diet per day, according to the World Health Organization.
    Expand
  2. 2. What's The Impact Of Excess Sugar?

    Excess consumption of sugar can cause:

    • Dental caries

    • Weight gain

    • Hidden hunger

    • Micronutrient deficiency

    • Addiction and concentration issues

    • Sleep concerns

    • Hyperactivity

    • Reduced vision

    • Gastrointestinal issues

    • Lowered immunity

    • Stomach ache and indigestion

    Not just that, if you regularly consume high levels of sugar, it could also lead to an early onset of diabetes and high blood pressure. Studies have also linked asthma with sugar intake in teens. 

    “There is enough scientific evidence present in the public domain pertaining to the negative impact of increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods on human health, which include several chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression (Non Communicable Diseases).”
    NAPi Statement

    But, there are measures you can take to control this. First things first, recognise where you’re consuming sugar from and in what forms. Sugar has many names which is why people might not realise that they’re consuming sugar – fructose, glucose, corn syrup, caramel, etc. 

    Secondly, if you want to continue consuming packaged ‘health drinks’, cut down sugar from other sources. Or simply opt for homemade drinks made with natural flavours.

    Expand
  3. 3. Why Such ‘Misleading Ads’ a Threat to Public Health?

    Dr Gupta mentions that products these days make all sorts of claims –  they’ll make you taller, increase your muscle strength, make your bones stronger, give you immunity, etc.

    “But they’ll never tell you about their sugar or salt content. There’ll be a very small print on the back of the label. That’s it.”
    Dr Arun Gupta

    The problem is also that even if the composition is mentioned on the packet, how is the general public supposed to know whether the amount mentioned is healthy or not, says Dr Gupta.

    “Suppose the packet says that there’s 20 gm sugar per 100 gm of the product. Do you and I know if that’s the safe healthy limit? Do we know what amount of sugar, salt, saturated fat, preservatives, emulsifiers, colouring agents, flavouring agents are healthy to consume?”

    NAPi’s statement also mentioned, “The aggressive marketing of UPFs drives the increasing consumption of UPFs; leading to unhealthy and unsustainable diets replacing real foods globally. The claims by the company are vague and do not showcase or share any scientific evidence which could be referred to and reviewed by the public health scientists.”

    Expand
  4. 4. What’s the Way Out Here?

    Dr Gupta suggests

    • The government creates a definition of healthy foods

    • They label products as healthy and unhealthy and make that information public

    • Companies should mention the products' composition on the front of the packaging

    Interestingly, putting the ingredients on the front of the packaging is already something that the Food Standards and Safety Authority of India (FSSAI) has been working towards. They even released a draft notification on the same in September 2022.

    Back then, they had suggested rating pre-packaged products from least healthy to most healthy by giving them stars. This is something that Dr Gupta is against. He says that the government directly needs to tell the consumers that a certain product is unhealthy.

    He also says that this mechanism to determine which product is healthy and which is not should not be self-regulatory, but mandated and controlled by government agencies. He adds that it is already being practised in several countries.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Why Is Sugar a Cause of Concern?

Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief Nutritionist, Apollo Hospitals, explains that while in general sugar intake in a high amount is harmful to health, when it comes to these packaged ‘health drinks’ specifically, it’s not the sugar levels alone that are concerning.

These products also have:

  • Preservatives

  • Colouring agents

  • Flavouring agents such as cocoa

  • Saturated fats

  • Palmolein oil 

  • Other ultra processed ingredients

For any pre-packaged beverage, these ingredients are necessary to provide the stability, structure, and texture you want the product to have.

Dr Arun Gupta, Nutritionist and Convenor of the Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest-India, also mentions that with ultra-processed foods, the problem is that the actual ingredient loses all its nutritional value. 

And..

“This is very bad for gut health. Gut health not only determines your digestive health but also brain development and immunity for children.”
Dr Priyanka Rohatgi

Dr Rohatgi adds that the problem is also that children these days are exposed to sugar in various forms, be it in terms of chocolate/jam spreads, donuts, muffins, a hundred different types of sweets, or desserts.

Another added factor is the increased culture of consuming ultra-processed pre-packaged foods and ordering out.

All this combined exceeds the permissible sugar intake limits  – which is a 2-4 teaspoons or less than 10 percent of your diet per day, according to the World Health Organization.
ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

What's The Impact Of Excess Sugar?

Excess consumption of sugar can cause:

  • Dental caries

  • Weight gain

  • Hidden hunger

  • Micronutrient deficiency

  • Addiction and concentration issues

  • Sleep concerns

  • Hyperactivity

  • Reduced vision

  • Gastrointestinal issues

  • Lowered immunity

  • Stomach ache and indigestion

Not just that, if you regularly consume high levels of sugar, it could also lead to an early onset of diabetes and high blood pressure. Studies have also linked asthma with sugar intake in teens. 

“There is enough scientific evidence present in the public domain pertaining to the negative impact of increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods on human health, which include several chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression (Non Communicable Diseases).”
NAPi Statement

But, there are measures you can take to control this. First things first, recognise where you’re consuming sugar from and in what forms. Sugar has many names which is why people might not realise that they’re consuming sugar – fructose, glucose, corn syrup, caramel, etc. 

Secondly, if you want to continue consuming packaged ‘health drinks’, cut down sugar from other sources. Or simply opt for homemade drinks made with natural flavours.

0

Why Such ‘Misleading Ads’ a Threat to Public Health?

Dr Gupta mentions that products these days make all sorts of claims –  they’ll make you taller, increase your muscle strength, make your bones stronger, give you immunity, etc.

“But they’ll never tell you about their sugar or salt content. There’ll be a very small print on the back of the label. That’s it.”
Dr Arun Gupta

The problem is also that even if the composition is mentioned on the packet, how is the general public supposed to know whether the amount mentioned is healthy or not, says Dr Gupta.

“Suppose the packet says that there’s 20 gm sugar per 100 gm of the product. Do you and I know if that’s the safe healthy limit? Do we know what amount of sugar, salt, saturated fat, preservatives, emulsifiers, colouring agents, flavouring agents are healthy to consume?”

NAPi’s statement also mentioned, “The aggressive marketing of UPFs drives the increasing consumption of UPFs; leading to unhealthy and unsustainable diets replacing real foods globally. The claims by the company are vague and do not showcase or share any scientific evidence which could be referred to and reviewed by the public health scientists.”

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

What’s the Way Out Here?

Dr Gupta suggests

  • The government creates a definition of healthy foods

  • They label products as healthy and unhealthy and make that information public

  • Companies should mention the products' composition on the front of the packaging

Interestingly, putting the ingredients on the front of the packaging is already something that the Food Standards and Safety Authority of India (FSSAI) has been working towards. They even released a draft notification on the same in September 2022.

Back then, they had suggested rating pre-packaged products from least healthy to most healthy by giving them stars. This is something that Dr Gupta is against. He says that the government directly needs to tell the consumers that a certain product is unhealthy.

He also says that this mechanism to determine which product is healthy and which is not should not be self-regulatory, but mandated and controlled by government agencies. He adds that it is already being practised in several countries.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from fit

Topics:  sugar intake   Bourn Vita 

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