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The sugar content of soft drinks in Australia, Europe and the United States

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Despite recommendations by the World Health Organization and the National Health and Medical Research Council to limit the drinking of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), Australians are particularly high consumers of such products.1 In the report of the Australian Health Survey, 39% of males and 29% of females over 2 years of age had consumed SSBs on the day prior to the interview in 2011–2012,1 and these drinks were the largest sources of sugar in the Australian diet.2

Soft drinks in Australia are chiefly sweetened with sugar cane-derived sucrose (online Appendix), a disaccharide of 50% glucose and 50% fructose; overseas, they are predominantly sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (United States) or sucrose-rich sugar beet (Europe). The sucrose, fructose and glucose content of soft drinks therefore varies between regions.

Glucose (but not fructose) rapidly elevates plasma glucose and insulin levels; fructose intake increases triglyceride production in the liver. Sucrose elicits a moderately rapid rise in blood glucose and insulin levels, as it must first be metabolised to free glucose and fructose. Variations in soft drink formulation will therefore have a biological impact because of differences in the final…